Contemporary design would fit area, proponent says

City balks at glass and steel commercial building with condos on Harvey Road

Published on November 1, 2010
Artist's rendition of proposed Harvey Road development.
Submitted graphic

The proponent of a Harvey Road condominium and retail building says heritage building restrictions shouldn’t be imposed on the area, which has little heritage value.

Elaine Hann, owner of Leaside Manor and Executive Apartments, says she likes contemporary architecture and that’s why she’d like to build a contemporary glass-fronted building. “We want to build a contemporary building. I don’t think anything that’s there fits there. Certainly not like what used to be there,” she says.

“There’s no reason in the world that that section of Harvey Road should be in the heritage area,” Hann says. “Do they want me to build that old building that was there?”

The area has been destroyed by fire and rebuilt several times, most recently in December 1992, when a fire broke out in an alleyway and left about 100 people homeless and destroyed many businesses in the area. On Oct. 13, the City of St. John’s deferred a decision on the

Harvey Road property, after expressing concerns about the look of the proposed building. The city has approved an office/retail building on the strip near  Jumping Bean and Stoggers’ Pizza, but the heritage advisory committee balked at the proposed glass and steel facade.

Hann’s proposal would see commercial space on the ground floor with five residential condominiums or apartments above. Hann and her partner intend to live in the unit on the top floor. The space is currently an empty lot.

Hann says she doesn’t think glass is an anti-heritage building material.

“I think glass is actually a magnificent match for a heritage area, because it gives back everything that’s in the area,” she says. As well, it has been argued that the Tim Hortons store and office building across the street don’t offer much heritage value to the neighbourhood. When asked if she thinks the city’s heritage regulations are antiquated, Hann says she’d like to see them examined by cty hall with direction from residents.

“I’m not convinced that (the heritage rules) meet a growing city’s needs. I’m not convinced they’re at this stage, not an impediment to development,” she says, pointing to a recently rezoned block on Water Street as an example where the city realized there was little or no heritage value and allowed something more contemporary.

“I think St. John’s is at a crossroads where they’re going to have to make a decision about contemporary because if they take that block out of the heritage area (on Water Street)… then the precedence is set.”