Salvation Army buildings denied heritage status

Daniel MacEachern
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There’s still an opportunity to preserve the structures, councillor says

St. John’s city council Monday rejected a last-ditch committee recommendation to award heritage status to two downtown buildings slated for demolition.

The Salvation Army plans to demolish the two Springdale Street buildings to make room for new, bigger buildings to accommodate growing demand for their charitable services, including a community kitchen and health clinic.

Coun. Dave Lane, co-chairman of the city’s heritage advisory committee, told council the committee recommended granting heritage status to the buildings to give the city more say in plans for the property — but there’s a ticking clock attached to $250,000 of federal money.

These two Salvation Army buildings were denied heritage status at Monday night’s St. John’s city council meeting. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

“To demolish the building, they’ve actually been given a grant for a substantial portion of that demolition cost, through a federal program that requires them to spend the money, or at least earmark it for March 31,” said Lane, who added that the Salvation Army’s application for demolition was filed Feb. 4, prompting an “expedited process” in determining whether the buildings should be given heritage status. “They’ve been deemed to have distinct heritage qualities that are worth preserving for our city.”

But the committee’s recommendation found little support among other council members, all of whom — with the exception of Lane’s fellow committee co-chairman, Coun. Sandy Hickman — voted to reject it.

Coun. Tom Hann detailed the history of the Salvation Army’s plans for the buildings, which started long before the formal application for the demolition, and city staff have known for nearly two years that the organization isn’t planning to preserve the buildings.

“The Salvation Army has always been clear for the need of their services in the downtown core and the fact that they were outgrowing their current buildings and the need for a new structure because of increasing demand,” Hann said. “In fact, the demand over the last two years has gone from 400 clients up to 550. And they’ve always been clear that they want to build a building of eight storeys and 10 storeys.”

Hann said allowing the organization to demolish the buildings doesn’t have to mean the destruction of downtown heritage.

“I would like to see, as a compromise, that we take some of the hydrostone from the existing buildings and use it as part of the façade of the new building,” he said. “I would like to see the establishment of some kind of library or a situation where storyboards and other items are used to depict the history of the work in that site.”

Hann noted the organization is planning a design charrette for later this year.

“That means that hundreds of people, whoever wants to go, can go to this charrette and have input in terms of what the design will be of the building, what it will look like, and to make sure that it fits into the heritage area.”

Ken Ritson of the Salvation Army said the organization does want to preserve some of the elements of the existing buildings.

“But the buildings themselves are just not practical. They just will not meet the need,” he said. “They’re not big enough. They’re three-storey buildings. They’ve probably got contaminated soil.”

After the meeting, Lane said there’s still opportunity to preserve the 75- and 100-year-old structures in some way.

“I know the Salvation Army’s open to working with us to find a sensitive design that hopefully incorporates the old materials of the building, if not the building itself,” he said.

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: The Salvation Army

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Recent comments

  • Lynn
    March 12, 2014 - 10:57

    We drove past those two buildings the other night - they are indeed an eyesore; decrepit and like another poster said, surely rat infested. I am a huge believer in maintaining heritage and for sure don't want St. John's turned into condo city or a concrete jungle. However, there has to be compromise and reality. likely It will cost the Sally Ann a lot more money to have to renovate to appease the Heritage Committee than to demolish and build new. As others have said, it's a great idea to retain some of the stone to incorporate outside, even possibly maintain something of the look of the old style in the new building. I'm sure they will be sensitive - after all, it's their own history as well. All these people going on and on about them HAVING to retain the building or withdrawing their support - it would be very interesting to see how you'd all react when faced with a huge financial and capital decision like this, all the while wanting to serve the public like they do. Bet you wouldn't be so quick to want to retain that rubble heap and be forced to incur more costs just to maintain the 'heritage' - you'd be looking at it from a practical point of view. And no, FYI, I'm not a member of the SA. Just someone who sees the realities of the situation.

    • Llew
      March 13, 2014 - 10:09

      Once you get rats in your building, or the possibility of rats, the old girl has to come down.

  • Joan
    March 11, 2014 - 16:40

    If the Salvation cares so little for our heritage, then I will no longer support their causes. After a lifetime of admiring and supporting their endeavours, I now withdraw.

    • Lloyd
      March 12, 2014 - 09:48

      You call these two buildings heritage? You should think again. Look up the true meaning of heritage. In response to you not supporting the Salvation Army anymore, then you have to live with that decision. Isn't it so easy to criticize when you don't walk in the shoes of another person?

    • seanoairborne
      March 13, 2014 - 16:57


  • O'Reilly
    March 11, 2014 - 11:50

    Next thing you know they will allow construction of condos on top of our cemetarys. Why remember the past when our future is so bright ya gotta wear shades.

    • Justin
      March 11, 2014 - 16:56

      You can remember the past without looking at it all the time. ESPECIALLY when there are multiple things to look at. These aren't even heritage buildings--they're just old!! By your mentality, rather than burying our dead, we should have them bronzed and mounted as statues everywhere we go!

    • seanoairborne
      March 13, 2014 - 17:03

      Great idea!!Thanks!!!

  • Happily Retired
    March 11, 2014 - 10:08

    Just Wondering, This decision makes sense. The Salvation Army owns an obsolete (not a heritage) building, which could be considered an eyesore. It wants to replace it with a newer, more useful building, and Council agrees. Great decision.

  • Annlloyd
    March 11, 2014 - 09:56

    I am so sick and tired of listening to this heritage garbage. It is high time to put an end to it. What I don't understand is that a private citizen who owns their house have to conform to these stupid heritage laws, if they are in a heritage area, in the downtown area. It is beyond my comprehension that individual home owners, and business owners can't do what the darn well like with their "OWN" properties, within reason. I have voted for Sandy Hickman through the years, however, after his vote against The Salvation Army for demolition of their two buildings, he will not get my vote next time around, if he will run again. I am all for heritage, to a point, however, there is no heritage connected to these two buildings on Springdale Street. Only great memories! Words cannot express my thanks to The Salvation Army, for the great work they do. They put service to others before self. Clarence Wiseman was the 10th., General Of The Salvation Army. He was born in Moreton's Harbour, Notre Dame Bay, and passed away in 1985. It is the same thing with a few "I'll lose my view" people when developments are proposed in the downtown area. View before tax base for the city, and employment? Give me a break, please! It is 2014 isn't it? Or, maybe I am mistaken. It could be 1814? Fortis didn't have their plans to the City before a new councillor was contacted by the media, and that was the end of the great plans that Fortis had for the old buildings on Water Street East a few years ago. So, Fortis did, as I would have done, withdrew the plans. So, what do you see there now? A few old buildings with no heritage character whatsoever. I guess they are all rat infested. Something, eventually, will have to be done with them. There is absolutely no doubt about that, whatsoever. We could have had a great new development there, with a sitting area for the public to use. Where was the so called heritage group when the Ayre & Sons building was demolished? That building should still be there, with different little shops. I agreed with the former Mayor Duff on that one. Atlantic Place was suppose to be the new Newfoundland Hotel, however, that didn't pan out. Oh my!!

    • Donna
      March 11, 2014 - 10:17

      There are benefits to living in a heritage home. Tax benefits. If you don't like it, there are plenty of cookie-cutter homes you could buy. I hear Fort Mac is a nice place where there is no heritage to worry about.

    • Justin
      March 11, 2014 - 14:31

      And you getting tax benefits is more important than helping people? That mentality is what's ruining Newfoundland, not development.

    • Llew
      March 13, 2014 - 10:14

      So you'd like to buy a home in a heritage district, tear the front off her to put in giant windows, stucco over the whole thing and built two additional levels on top? Sure, why should heritage designation stand in your way?!

    • Llew
      March 13, 2014 - 10:17

      It's funny that so many people call these buildings eyesores. You know you live in Newfoundland right? Not everything here is a glass and stucco monstrosity? I hear Markham is a nice place, maybe you should think about relocating.

  • Joe
    March 11, 2014 - 08:55

    The only "heritage" that Hann, O'Keefe and Tilley are interested in is heritage councilors.

  • Terry
    March 11, 2014 - 08:19

    I for one totally believe the City Council should be looking to preserve the history of the oldest city in North America, if we keep approving permits for destruction of these buildings downtown St. John's will lose it's character. The council should be putting their resources into having inspectors going around to some of the older flop houses to have them raised to the ground as they are the true eye sores and need attention to improve the aesthetics of this beautiful city.

    • Jeff
      March 11, 2014 - 08:57

      People live in those "flop houses." Until there is affordable housing, "flop houses," will be a necessary evil - even if they are 'eyesores.'

    • seanoairborne
      March 13, 2014 - 17:10

      The "oldest city in N America" that's just a myth.St.Augustine Florida is the oldest city in North America.The oldest city in "Canada"is St.John's!

  • Gekko
    March 11, 2014 - 07:45

    Excellent news, that area has been an eyesore for a long time. A multi-story parking garage would be a huge improvement both aesthetically and practically. And you wont have to worry nearly as much about the heritage protesters because this is a lower-income area, a lot of rundown rentals and boarding houses, less tax dollars coming out of that area and less NIMBY issues about construction and harbor views than over in the eastside of downtown..

    • Jeff
      March 11, 2014 - 08:16

      Yeah, we can walk all over the 'poors.'

  • Anon
    March 11, 2014 - 07:45

    City council is going to destroy the downtown. Part of our charm is the older buildings in the downtown core. They are part of what makes us unique. A thought... At least keep the facades & build behind, then when you are walking down the street it will still have some charm.

  • Justin
    March 11, 2014 - 07:36

    I love downtown St. John's, especially our trademark heritage buildings, our jellybean row houses and all the history we share as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. That said, I think PEOPLE are more important that BUILDINGS. Even if the buildings are heritage (which these are not). The demolition should NOT be allowed to proceed until design plans are finalized and are in place, because that's just common sense--but that's the only reason why I wouldn't be in favor of this. Councillor Hann has a great idea--incorporating parts of the existing structure into the new one. Or even building something that matches the design of our heritage buildings and is just...newer. It's not worth being ill-equipped to help people just because we want to preserve history.