History vs Progress

Last week, Fortis Properties announced their $75 million-dollar plan to build a 15-storey office building in downtown St. John’s. If St. John’s approves, this would include a courtyard area, 235,000 square feet of new office space, and 382 new underground parking spaces.

It also involves removing a number of historical buildings, including my own office building facing the harbour. As you can imagine, there are some people who are outraged with this idea.

I have mixed feelings, and I’m obviously a little biased. On one hand, the downtown area is in dire need of more parking space and we could certainly bring more development to the area. Newfoundland is booming right now, our minimum wage will soon be on par with Ontario and we’re finally a “have” province. It’s important to keep our economy up.

On the other hand, I can’t believe they’re tearing down my building. In fact, I MOVED DOWNTOWN to be close to work, and now I’m told I have to uproot again? I can’t afford to relocate. I can’t afford a monthly bus pass. I don’t want to move, I love downtown, it’s the most amazing place in the world to live. Sure the building leaks, the elevator is haunted and the insulation sucks…but it’s a lighthouse. And the view? Incredible.

Never mind the fact that the building they’re planning to erect will pretty much entirely block out the view of The Narrows and Signal Hill from many viewpoints. And the proposed building? Devastatingly ugly. We are blocking out the greatest view in the city for THIS?

Come on, who constructs square buildings anymore?

Come on, who constructs square buildings anymore?


In my opinion, downtown St. John’s is what separates the city from any others.
Our skyline is not filled with skyscrapers and towers and office buildings, but brick buildings and historical property and adorable little shops with colourful fronts. There is no intimidation. Our people don’t scurry along the sidewalks, barely looking at one another or walking with eyes downcast. We smile, peek into restaurants and pubs and stop to listen to fiddle music along the way.

And now we’re looking to transform. We’ll be all about business, like Stavanger and Kelsey Drive and those other ugly areas of town, seemingly banished to the outskirts due to their lack of eye candy.

This brings up the question I asked before: how long before we’re just like everywhere else?

Finally updated the “My Map” page at the top of this site. Just throwin’ down ideas, as I have the memory retention of a peanut.

  • http://corn-bean.com linlah

    I would pick history over new any day, but then I like old.

  • Lottie

    i was half on board until i seen that ugmo design.

  • http://ibackpackcanada.com Corbin

    Total ugmo design. But helping the economy is good. Maybe if that ugly square thing was painted one of them nifty yellow or blue colours I always see in those Newfoundland and Labrador commercials I might be for it. But yea, I’d take the old. I need to visit St Johns before the new takes over the charm.

    NFLD seems like its this pure untainted drunken virgin, and this big ugly building is just taking advantage of her. For shame. lol

  • http://www.teachingexpat.com Eric

    It is one thing to tear down history for new buildings, although I am not a fan, but to do it to build such a boring building should be against the law. At least replace it with something that people will want to see 50 years from now. Maybe it will be like everything else in this economy and be put off until it is scraped for something else.

  • http://www.christophermercer.net Christopher Mercer

    “Come on, who constructs square buildings anymore?” Well, everyone! Except those super rich developers who can afford design in their buildings. Really it comes down to space, a cube just fits more people, i.e. more rent to charge, people/offices.

    Not withstanding the legal issues that the City of St John’s has no idea are coming and will be – the history behind this is counsel has been cherry picking which developments do and do not get the green light – there is the heritage of the city to consider. No where have I read that Fortis plans to keep the existing facades of the buildings they will tear down. Which will at least allow the heritage look to remain while the buildings are updated to modern building codes and facilities.

    One thing Halifax has recently done is pass the much contested HRM By Design plans which create various zones in the DT core which have different height restrictions depending on which view plane they are proposing to protect. It also designated Barrington Street (much like water street) as a heritage street and thusly protects the many turn of the century building designs. Many developers are committed to preserving existing building facades while redeveloping the properties for new restaurants, shops, and even a boutique hotel. In all 4 currently announced redevelopments they are using a stepped back design that places the higher, newer building behind the facade and slightly out of view at street level. I think this will really work to keep that look and feel on Barrington while allowing more space to be added in the DT core.

    This is something St John’s needs to do. Some will fear monger that it will just push developers away, or business will leave, or business won’t even come to St John’s. But this is not true at all. They could even offer a tax rebate for the first X number of years that will offset the cost to preserve what they are protecting in the development process (it does cost more to do it that way).

    In the end, that building should not be allowed to be developed as it currently exists. It needs to fit into the culture and skyline of St John’s better. Though it should not be outright denied because it is a big modern building (a block of glass/steel) we need that too!

  • http://megsrantsandramblings.blogspot.com meg

    oh this makes me sad..I hate hearing of historic buildings being torn down…especially when they are being replaced with such ugly buildings! downtown St. John’s sounds lovely just like it is.
    we’ve had a similar situation in one of our port villages where I live, and it turned into a very lengthy legal battle that went on for years. I understand the need for economic development, but at the same time when that development ruins the history and uniqueness of a place….that just sucks. I would choose haunted lighthouse over ugly building any day.

  • http://www.spunkygirlmonologues.com SpunkyGirl

    It bites when big business comes to town, and takes over favourite views, buildings, neighborhoods. Although it’s sometimes necessary for the economy, sometimes it just plain sucks. After being away from Toronto for a couple of years I was crushed when I returned to my all time favourite street to find that all the cool, funky shops were now boutiques and GAP type stores. In my mind, they ruined a wonderful part of Toronto’s charm.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    I like old too, so much character.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    For real!

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    Hahahahahahaha, I like to think NL plunders untainted drunken virgins while maintaining its quaint charm. Yes, come visit!

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    Well it hasn’t been approved by the city yet, hopefully they can find a better way to fit the building into the downtown area!

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    I like that idea, having it fit with the skyline. But seriously, that building is ugly. Even the Scotia building is more attractive, and that’s a fairly modern high-rise too. This new one is just a big square piece of crap. I really don’t want a giant turd blocking out the lovely Narrows! It’ll be interesting to see what the city decides.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    Same here! It’s hard to find a balance. I understand both arguments, I’ll just be sad to see my beloved lighthouse go.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    Ouch, they tore down all the old boutiques?! That is sad. I also wonder what the store owners will do while the new building is being constructed…? It’ll take years, but having to uproot must be a bummer for business.

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  • http://www.nathansofiatravel.com Sofia

    That really IS ugly..!! Sometimes I don’t understand how people think…

  • http://solofriendly.com Gray

    Wow. I totally agree with you. What a shame to tear down those lovely old historic buildings to replace them with that big fugly office building. It seems like it wouldn’t take much to create a building that at least has the same architectural appeal as the current old buildings, but with the space of the new building. Even worse, I can understand your angst about having to move again, especially when you’ve found a place you love so much. (Seriously? You live in a lighthouse? How cool is that!)

  • http://classroomconfessions.wordpress.com Camile

    That sounds sort of sad. I really love old buildings and old architecture. And it would suck if you have to move or commute really far. Good Luck, I hope it works out.

  • Sabina

    That’s too bad. Modern building are usually so dul (and ugly)l. They should save that lighthouse!

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    Money money money!

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    Oh I work in the lighthouse, not live! Although damn, that’d be amazing. Feels like the whole project is entirely rushed to me…they could do better with more time.

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    Thanks! I really, really hope I don’t have to move!

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    I agree! They’re not ALL ugly…but I think this one is

  • http://www.dirtbagwriter.com Amiee

    Ughhh – to quote Edward Abbey “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    That is a damned good quote.

  • http://thefutureisred.com Leigh Shulman

    I feel like living in NYC accustomed me to seeing things change constantly. Seems like the only thing about NYC that stays the same is that every 10 years, just about everything changes completely.

    Yet, I still go back to my favorite places — the ones that still exist anyway — when I go back to visit.

    Shouldn’t there be some sort of happy medium between the two?

  • http://www.candicedoestheworld.com Candice

    I remember being in London and counting the cranes and other machinery visible from the ground…madness! Cool in one way, nothing stays the same for long.