Brantford’s downtown destruction

Brantford city council recently voted to demolish three blocks of heritage buildings in the city’s downtown. Guest columnist Nigel Terpstra, of Urban Toronto, sent us this post about the situation.

Recently, the city of Brantford, Ontario announced its plans to demolish and remove forty-one structures from the south side of Colborne Street, in the heart of its historic downtown.  The structures themselves date from 1850 to 1915 with the section stretching from 115 to 139 Colborne comprising one of the longest surviving collections of pre-confederation buildings in Canada.  They represent a wide variety of architectural styles from the Beaux Arts of The Right House (1870), to the Georgian of The Shannon Building (1867), to the Edwardian of the Dominion House Furnishings Company (1915).  Within that range are also included a number of Renaissance Revival, Second Empire and even Art Deco structures, all of which were created at different times, for different clients with different needs. They could very soon all be reduced to rubble.   Urbanites and heritage buffs recoil in horror at this prospect – surely in 2010 we don’t do these sorts of things – but the unfortunate reality is that we do and we are.  It does not take a great knowledge of history to understand that it was exactly this sort of ‘bulldoze and rebuild’ attitude which claimed the downtowns of countless North American cities in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  Instead of the glassy, modern towers which were supposed to replace the heavy, masonry structures of the past, economies changed, money went elsewhere, and cities were left with gaping holes, both physical and psychological, from which many have yet to recover.

Brantford’s mayor, Mike Hancock, seems to see things differently, arguing that the buildings’ demolition would “…give our downtown new life.”  There is an argument to be made for regenerative structures — at times, tearing away a small number of older buildings and replacing them with something a community needs is an effective way to bring people in and reinvigorate ‘dead’ space.  To this end, Brantford City Councillor Mark Littell has promised that the land will be put to good use by the YMCA of Hamilton-Burlington-Brantford in partnership with Mohawk College, Wilfrid Laurier University and Nipissing University, all of whom want to build an athletics facility for community and postsecondary use on about a third of the site.  But what, then, of the other two-thirds?

Both the mayor and the town’s councillors seem to believe that developers will flock to the newly vacated space, but the chances of this happening are slim.  Furthermore, when the older structures are torn down, the individual parcels of land upon which they stood will be too small to be developed on their own and will therefore be bundled into bigger and more profitable tracts.   The buildings which will be built on these new lots will also be larger and will contain fewer opportunities for individual retailers to establish themselves, changing scale of the street completely.  It seems therefore, that what we are faced with is less the surgical removal of a specific set of structures in an effort to revive a larger precinct, than the clear cutting of three blocks at the whim of a pro-development city council.

Some may argue that the buildings are decaying, damaged or are of questionable structural integrity, but a 2005 fire department inspection revealed that the roofs were sound, the basements dry and the walls free of cracks.  Furthermore, a 1995 report by the South Side of Colborne Street Task Force confirmed that the buildings themselves were not to blame, stating: “The problems along Colborne Street have emerged over an extended period of time and are the result of a wide variety of factors.  There is not an instantaneous cure for these problems.  The improvement of the street will be the result of incremental improvements to existing buildings and to the surrounding area.”  Sage advice indeed, but why then, fifteen years on, are we considering the destruction of these buildings in the face of both the reports of heritage experts and more broadly, the lessons of history?

It is no secret that Brantford spent some years in decline after the bankruptcies of its two major employers, White Farm Equipment and Massey-Ferguson, forced thousands out of work.  Colborne Street suffered heavy losses during this period as retailers and services left when business dried up.  In the last ten years however, the city’s unemployment rate halved and new life has begun to take hold.  What better way to solidify this success than by regenerating the city’s core to its former glory?  Instead, Brantford has chosen to destroy, getting rid of the old structures as if they were bad memories.

Brantford must realize that the position it is in is not unique, but the decisions its councillors and mayor make could set the city apart from others who have traveled the same path.  It is exactly this sort of “dumb and ordinary,” “messy vitality,” to quote two urban visionaries of the twentieth century, Robert Venturi and Jane Jacobs, that we have come to appreciate and cherish in the wake of countless failed experiments akin to the one upon which Brantford seems determined to embark.  In this sense, the derelict heterogeneity of Colborne Street’s current condition is itself the best template for true revival and a catalyst around which the whole city should rally.

Image from Wikipedia Commons: Balcer

39 comments

  1. Boo! They should try to at least keep the front facades as they do in our city. It’s shamefule that they would tear down and demolition everything. Obvisouly this mayor has no historical vision for his small town. What a waste!

  2. Has the final decision been made by Council? It would be interesting to see what the local residents and business owners thing. This does appear to be a real shame!

  3. On saturday a chapter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario was established in Brantford, with a dozen activists (including two city councillors) joining. There is a small bit of hope that we have managed to gum up the works enough to delay demolition. The mayor and the pro-demolition gang are calling opponents’ employers, threatening people, just doing everything they can to shut down opposition.

    These are extraordinary buildings; there used to be a canal behind them and they are built into the hill, sometimes seven stories high on the rear. They are working, commercial structures that can easily be made to live again.

  4. Has the final decision been made by Council? It would be interesting to see what the local residents and business owners think. This does appear to be a real shame!

  5. This is really unfortunate, as Brantford does have a collection of historical buildings that remain well-used today, including the courthouse, the VIA station (one of Ontario’s finest), the old library now used by Laurier. Even some of the remaining buildings left behind by Massey-Harris and Cockshut (south of downtown, towards the Church of the Mohawks and the Bell Homestead) are interesting.

    Brantford sounds like they want to repeat their own history. They tried this before in the 1980s with Eaton Market Place, a page from Hamilton’s discredited renewal playbook, knocking down two city blocks for a mall that made little sense and Eaton’s bolted from as soon as their bankrupcy protection allowed them to do so.

    Didn’t they learn their own lesson? Downtown Brantford was finally showing some signs of life after those dark 1990s.

  6. This is an absolute disgrace. I had a relative who used to live in Brantford and we would drive down that way when i was younger. i always loved those buildings and now im in Edmonton where they love tearing down history for no real reason and many buildings go to bad shape. Instead invest and promote that this area will revitalize. make it into historical shops and promote it as “Old Brantford” The oldest tourist attraction in Ontario!

    Such a disgrace. SHAME ON YOU CITY COUNCIL. Your supposed to protect your city not destroy it.

  7. 1st off the buildings in the picture are NOT!!! coming down as thats not the South Side of Colborne.
    2nd google street view it. Most of them looking Horrible, and most of them are boarded up. 1st 7 feet look alright then the other 4 floors look horrible.
    Bottom floor fine, all others horrible.
    Most have been roting and decaying for YEARS!!!

    Such a shame NO ONE!!! gave a damn UNTIL the city made the tough but CORRECT!!! choice to take them down.
    They have been an eye soars for fare to long.

    Watch the Movie Silent Hill. THATS our downtown. They didn’t even have to much to the buildings to make it look like they have been a banded for 30 years which is truly sad. Also the fact that they have to spend money to FIX up most of them so they’ll be SAFE!!! to film inside and safe to set up stuff.
    These save the buildings people make me sick and are 20 years to late.

  8. “The mayor and the pro-demolition gang are calling opponents’ employers, threatening people, just doing everything they can to shut down opposition”

    There’s clearly a lot of money tied up in this land use deal. The people of Brantford should demand transparency in government. Something shady is going on here.

  9. What a disaster. Welcome to 1958 in Brantford.

    To know where the proponents of demolition are coming from, just read this quote from Mayor Mike Hancock: “I think the worst mistake we could make is to have a solid plan. Let’s just take it down and look at what we have got. Then we can start deciding together what should go there.”

    In a city where the leadership believes that the “worst mistake” is to have a “solid plan”, it’s not hard to understand that things like this will happen.

  10. Here’s an article posted on the Hamilton-based Raise the Hammer last week on this subject:

    http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/1025/memo_to_brantford:_hamilton_heritage_demolition_101

    Memo to Brantford: learn from Hamilton’s mistakes.

    One of the first comments to that article very handily lists the email addresses of the whole Brantford city council, too. I sent them all a letter — probably foolishly, and probably over-emotionally — and I await a response:

    http://bit.ly/c84zTz

    Thanks, Nigel, for bringing this to our attention, and thanks to Lloyd for the update regarding the new Brantford chapter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario.

  11. Whatever!!. I have a different perspective on this. These buildings have been on the verge of collapse for over 25 years. That entire street has been boarded up for as long as I can remember. I had friends that lived and worked in a few of those slumlord buildings. The building are totally unsafe and a fire-hazard never mind the BS you state above. Most of the building are completely collapsed inside. (I have been inside most) Why do you think they have been boarded up?? The street is completely dead, and has been dead for a very very long time. These building have been for sale, sold and unsold so many times it’s a joke for most in Brown town. (research the fraud that went on in the last 20 years) The blame ultimately goes to the owners that let them rot and the city for not enforcing the proper maintenance and code issues. What to do? Well it’s been 25+ years. Should the street just sit there for another 25 until someone invests in a very, very, very expensive reno? Hell no! You won’t find anyone from the area that would support that or put the money up.
    Dalhousie the next street over has been changed in a few areas with new developments and is amazingly nice and well planned. I was very surprised. What a success!!! The area is filled with students and families. There is a meeting place now with a venue for music and other activities. What it proves without a doubt is that the loss of a few derelict buildings will be worth the renewal of a once dead downtown. The “historic buildings” LOL, will not be missed one bit as Brantford has 1000’s of beautiful landmark buildings and homes from the “olden” days to be appreciated, saved and loved well into the future.
    However I will agree that maybe one or two of the building could be saved but knowing the way these building were constructed. Go around back and see the grade issues and how these buildings were built… It’s probably not possible. “Within the Brantfordian budget”. So before you jump into the Grand River swim in the water first.

    Also the picture shown is not the section to be demolished.You are showing the north side. (which is also vacant) If you show the correct picture of what the street looks……….. yes… that right …who would give a shit? A few dingbats that have no clue.

  12. First off, let me say that I tend agree with people who seek to preserve heritage architecture. I also believe that small to mid sized cities do best when they preserve their history – it makes them memorable and people desire to go to them. Also, in no way am I supporting the comments left here by Jack or jk – I don’t think inflamed rhetoric and personal insults help at all.

    With that said, I’ve been following this issue in the news for a while now and I honestly believe it’s far too late to ‘save’ these buildings – I believe they are beyond repair. They are victims of neglect. The image above is misleading – those are buildings on the north side which are in good shape and we’re talking about buildings on the south side. See it on Google here:
    http://bit.ly/dDbJAN

    I don’t know why the north side is in good shape while the south side has been left to rot but I’d speculate it has something to do with the buildings’ owners.

    I don’t think the mayor’s idea to just flatten the area and then figure out what to do is a good idea. I propose a radical suggestion – build new buildings that ‘match’ the ones across the street. These buildings were built 100 or so years ago; surely we can build something like them now!

    There are lots of interesting ideas out there as to what to do. It’s pretty easy to search this on Google News, and here’s an interesting article:
    http://news.therecord.com/News/Local/article/673283

    There are many complexities surrounding this issue and, with respect, I honestly believe that this is not as easy as “saving these buildings is the right thing.”

  13. Thanks for the google link Mark. However, I saw both boarded up and renovated buildings, not quite the picture of ruin some commentors have painted. Old buildings with low rents are an important component in the mix of a city. Small companies and independant shops can afford to start up in them. Tear them down, rebuild, and only the big chains will be able to afford the space. Does Brampton have a dozen chain stores begging for downtown space? My guess is no. Perhaps a small number of buildings should be removed to make way for a new mixed-use building. But, please, don’t tear down all these buildings at once!

  14. If you want to support a small Ontario town that keeps its downtown historic, pretty, and (relatively) alive, travel a few more kilometers past Brantford to its old rival town Paris. It’s really pretty.

  15. First, to the original article; that a picture of our North Side of Colborne. Not a target for demolition, though anything’s possible…

    The buildings have not all been on the verge of collapse for over 25 years. The buildings have not been boarded up for as long as that. Proof? Check the newspapers, etc. You’ll see what businesses were active then. In fact, in 1980’s the ENTIRE South Side of Colborne Street was full of business!! The North Side of Colborne Street was full of business!! As was Eaton’s Market Square.

    Many of the buildings are not collapsing.
    They were built to last. It is awfully hard to cause a building made as they were back then, to collapse.

    The “slumlords” never owned all of the buildings. They did not own 70% of the buildings until very recent years. Not 20-30 years as being claimed. Try looking that up.

    It is requirement by law to board up vacant storefronts. Just because some of the storefronts may have been vacant, does not mean the other levels were empty also. Many of them were not, not until November 2009 – February 2010.

    An inspection by the fire departement personnel of many of these buildings in 2005 indicated that the roofs are sound and the basements are dry. No visible wall cracks were observed. Try backing claims with proof? Because I can.

    The street is DEAD NOW.
    60+ tenants and 5/6 businesses (that we’re aware of!) have been EVICTED. The final business My-Thai was evicted in February 2010. The South Side of Colborne Street was not a vacant, abandoned, mess until NOW. Now for the first time ever, all 41 buildings are empty and being purposely neglected.

    How is a business expected to last when you have a city who removes the parking lot/Market Square, and builds a boxy-shopping mall that nearly kills off all of the businesses that made our downtown core, just that, our downtown core? How are you expected to have small business or a shopping Mall survive when the main street (Market Street) is closed down so the traffic is directed out of the city?

    SOME businesses made it through all of that bs.
    My-Thai (between 6-9 years), Krisjens Cafe, Floods Jewellers (at least three generations), Kreative Khaos (years), Laracy Tax (years), SPCA Thrift Shop (years), International Hair Salon (19 years), etc. Those businesses made it through all of the bs chanegs to our downtown, and were a VITAL part of why we still had a downtown! But now all of them are evicted. Now because of the illogical senseless development plan to expropriate all 41 buildings, evict all 60 tenants, evict all 5/6 businesses, demolish all 41 buildings, because of our own city we no longer have a downtown core.

    True, the city should have been enforcing by laws being broken, but many by laws such as that are being broken by businesses all over our city, and nobody is doing a thing to change that. THAT is the FRAUD that should have been called out.

    South Side Colborne Street has no reason to sit for “another 25 years untile someone invests in a very, very, very expensive reno”. They already want to invest in a very, very, very, very expensive reno of three blocks. Makes little difference really, except that we have buildings now that CAN be restored and made a vital part of our downtown core again. At a cost much less than having new boxy-buildings that won’t be built for years after the three blocks are cleared. Have you forgotten about the years of ryegrass we’re supposed to look forward to?

    Laurier/Y should be taking over Market Square. The study has already been done to support all of the reasons why it is best for them to move there. Problem before was that the city did not own the building, but don’t they now? Laurier/Y should either be renovating Market Square or demolishing it and building new. They have more than enough room now that NCO, JC’s Eatery, etc. are gone. Laurier/Y should be in our DOWNTOWN CENTER. It is the best location for them, as close as possible to the Library, Laurier, Harmony Square, Bus Station, etc.

    We already have had PROOF that SOME of these 41 buildings can be saved and should be restored. Also a wealthy heritage developer from London, Ontario, came to our city council and PROVED he could save some of ours, because he has expertise working with buildings that are in hundreds of years far worse condition than any of ours. He said ours were a palace comapared to what he’s seen and restored. ALSO the Lister Block, was in far worse condition than any of our 41 buildings, and they ARE restoring it. In fact, the federal government gave $7 million to the city of Hamilton to buy and restore that building that so many people thought was a collapsing eyesore that needed to be demolished. Guess they were wrong eh? Considering it’s going to be a vital part of downtown Hamilton again.

    Oh yes, Harmony Square is such a success. It’s half empty. The storefronts are not affordable, the apartment-lofts are not affordable. And reliable sources have said a many complaints come from those working and living in Harmony Square in regards to the building conditions on the inside. Just because it is a NEW building does not mean it’s built to last.

    These 41 historic buildings WILL BE missed. And if our city of Brantford actually taught HISTORY OF BRANTFORD than this would be far less of a fight, because it would be widely known how historically and architecturally significant these buildings are. Our downtown core should have been designated a heritage district long ago.

    Try searching; Jasper Gilkison
    One of the 41 buildings belonged to this historical figure featured in archives and historical societies all over Canada. Superintendent of the Six Nations for many years, connected to the Great Western Railway and the first telegraph line in Canada. This man and his family owned property on the South Side, and they are highly respected, highly known figures in Canada’s past.

    Going around back and looking at the buildings does not deem you an expert on the grade or construction of these buildings. Nor does what I claim, but the fact is what I claim is found in DOCUMENTED PROOF by many studies for the City of Brantford. Not hard to find, just do a search on the internet, it’s all there. Or go to the Library.

    The budget, what budget? This city barely has a budget. We’re in so much debt. We will be in so much more debt if they tear down these 41 buildings, which may be the only reason that slope is being held up. Don’t believe it is possible to cause such a mess? Go read about the Holmedale Collapse at the Water Plant. Focus on just how many millions we’re gonna be in the hole for the mess up there.

    The South Side, which is now completely vacant for the first time EVER. This city has NEVER owned all 41 Buildings until 2010. They have NEVER given these buildings or this entire core of our downtown a chance. They have never sought out heritage developers or any developers for this side, correction, they have ONLY sought out developers for when the buildings are to come down.

    The people who give a… are the ones who have spent the time to know their city. Who are fully aware what we’re in fact destroying, which we can never replace. A HUGE part of not only Brantford’s History, Ontario’s History, but Canada’s History.

    The South Side of Colborne Street is the oldest part of our city, the first part of our city before it was named “Brants Ford”. Within those 41 historic buildings we have the longest stretch of remaining pre-confederation buildings in Canada. These buildings were meant to be part of our city for so many more generations to come. They are not destroyed, the six councillors of the City of the Corporation of Brantford, including our current Mayor, and Phil McColeman we are destroying them.

  16. @ Leisah Marie
    Thanks for the comment. Obviously, my comment above was based on some mis-information – I was under the impression these buildings had been vacant for 20+ years.
    I believe the person from London you refer to is Shmuel Farhi. He has much experience and some great ideas – hopefully Brantford listened!

  17. How is it that developers have been allowed to be the main contributors to municipal elections in Ontario for so long?

  18. Someone mentioned Paris (Ontario). Last fall I took the bike path from Cambridge to Hamilton with some friends. Very worth doing. We had a lunch and a few pints in Paris, which was nice, though having to come back up the hill to the path was less fun. A little after Paris… Brantford: like an abandoned city in science fiction.

  19. They are very beautiful and historic buildings. FACT
    They have been for sale (most) for over 20 years. FACT
    The strip is dead and has been dead for a long time. FACT
    The buildings previous owners had more than enough time to do SOMETHING with them. FACT
    The city has been mulling what to do with them for over 10 years. FACT
    The existing buildings will cost more to renovate that new build. FACT (and don’t even try to tell me different)
    Paris is nicer. FACT
    The overwhelming majority of the buildings have been vacant for a long time. FACT
    Many developers have looked and tested the economics of renovating these buildings. FACT
    Some important history of Brantford would be destroyed. FACT
    People will miss them. FACT
    People will be happy when there gone. FACT
    Economics have determined the fate of these buildings. FACT
    There are many towns and cities all over Canada with similar buildings and historic artifacts. FACT
    It would be difficult to make an viable economic plan for these buildings even in Toronto. FACT
    Brantford needs help. FACT
    They were, all of them, Slumlords. FACT (That’s what you call a building owner that lets a building decay. Not one was ever fixed, cleaned or maintained in 20 years.)
    The last time the Government did something in Brantford it turned into a Casino. FACT (and that was an expensive mess. ICOMM Centre or whatever it was)
    There is a downtown core. It’s just a bit darker now. FACT
    The picture is wrong. FACT
    It’s sad. FACT

    I love those buildings, especially the theatre and my old barber shop. FACT

    The downtown core should have been designated a heritage district long ago. And if it was? They would still be boarded up cuz there’s no money in Brantford. FACT

    jessy

  20. @Mark

    Unfortunately, Mr. Shmuel Farhi was not only rejected, but he was insulted by one of our own councillors, on air. While Mr. Shmuel Farhi sat behind them. It was disgraceful and digusting the way he, Jim Chapman (author, radio host, columnist of London Free Press for years, etc)and George Georgopaulos of Sutton Reality. They all came to our city council, were given a mere 15 minutes (normally 10 per delegation/person) to speak. Jim and George supported every reason why we should work with Mr. Shmuel Farhi, and after a great presentation and proving he can save “some” of our 41 buildings, because he has worked on so many far older than ours, including having to go 8-10 feet into the core of the foundation of one building, etc. Yeah. He was rejected. I sent a public apology to our local newspapers, and the London Free Press, the only one who published it? You guessed it!

    Our newspapers are biars. They censor us, they ignore us.

    The only thing that has been empty and vacant for the last 10-15 years is the former Domtar property and the Greenwhich Street Site, where not much but a pile of rubble exists from the demolition without plans movement.

  21. Mark: re your “radical suggestion” of “build new buildings that ‘match’ the ones across the street”: actually, there’s a significant pro-preservation faction that’d regard that as a olde-tymey faux travesty which would compound the insult of the demolition…

  22. Leisah, based on your comment and Jessy’s, it sounds to me like demolishing these buildings has been an ongoing goal of the city. Why else would the city turn a blind eye to years of neglect?

    Adam, interesting point. I suppose I was thinking that the old buildings are set up quite well: shops on main floor, apts on 2nd and/or 3rd floor, the spacing of doorways, placement of windows, brickwork, ornamentation, set backs, etc. I can see how some ‘mirror’ of this, some sort of Main Street, Disneyland, would be an insult. But I can’t help but wonder if we can learn from these old buildings and build something new that respects the old. I know there’s something like this in Cornell, Markham but I find it to be a bit hokey … the “olde-tymey faux travesty” you suggest.

  23. im kind of sick of how people are saying that building stuff in a human scaled “victorian” fashion is somehow disingenuous. not every building should look like ocad just because its 2010. old row buildings are comfortable and desirable not because of their age, but because of the dimensions, their functionality and the enclosed street-rooms they create. to say anything else reveals an inferiority complex, as tho the power centers and cul-de-sacs somehow stole our innocence, never to be restored again. quite frankly, it all comes down to what you want the people in 100 years to consider natural. Disneyland is a mock up of a small town, not the other way around.

  24. If the picture above does not reflect some of the buildings under threat, it should be replaced with a picture of ones that are, to be fair.

    As for the correctness of replacing the existing stock, that should be contextualised of an Official Plan – presumably Brantford has one of some kind? One thing that could be explored is some new, sympathetic infill of the buildings in worst condition, with deeper basements in the remainder to provide retail with storage and encourage “live over the shop” on the upper floors.

    It seems to me that the Province treats preservation as a local matter and an unfunded one at that – fixing both of those should be an essential component of Places to Grow. However, everything old is not worth saving and in so far as Streetview goes there appears to be at least some dross amongst the gems.

  25. Demolitions for some, small Canadian flags for others!

    Ideally it would be nice to do some retrofitting to preserve that classic look while injecting some new blood into the downtown core, but it doesn’t sound like that capital exists in that town to make this feasible.

  26. Mike: the problem, per se, isn’t that “building stuff in a human scaled “victorian” fashion is somehow disingenuous”; it’s with the idea of *re*building Colborne in such a fashion, particularly if it bears no relationship to what preceded it other than the generic idea of “Victorian”.

    Though in case of disaster like fire, structural failure, or war destruction (cf. Warsaw’s Old Town), such a tactic can be acceptable. But when it comes to a deliberate, straightforward demolition/rebuild, it becomes a peevish ye-olde cartoon of what preservationism is all about…

  27. Provincial questions won’t slow demo
    (Brant News, March 1, 2010)

    “I am deeply concerned that the city’s reply to the ministry correspondence seeks to get the names of individuals and groups who have corresponded with the minister,” McCreary said. “I would suggest that we refrain from further witch-hunting and harassment of individuals opposed to this project. This isn’t Russia!”

  28. As a fourth year university student from Laurier-Brantford I feel the need to advocate for the city, and congratulate them on a job well done so far.

    I have lived in Brantford for four years. I am not sure how many of you have actually visited Brantford but over the three years I have lived there the city, along with the Universities and Collages, have been doing an amazing job of revitalizing the downtown. Each year they rescue at least one old, beautiful buidling from decay and bring it back to life. Some examples include carnegie hall (now a beautiful lecture theatre), a number of churches and old banks. An old post office has been converted into a residence (Post House).

    In addition revitalizing beautiful artchitecture they have built new buildings in the style of older ones to match the surroundings.

    I would just like to say that I am so pleased with the changes that the city, the universities and the collages have done so far and I trust that they will continue to make changes for the better. I have seen streetscape plans for colborn and they are beautiful.

  29. Thank you Nigel for bringing this to our attention. The near sightedness of this discussion is bewildering. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. These buildings in Brantford belong to all of us. They define the place and contribute to its uniqueness. If its about money then restoration or at least incorporation of these building into a devlopment scheme is more visionary as money goes to workers and not new construction material.
    As per Ventin Group Architects, 50 Dalhousie St., Brantford, ON. 519 754-1652. They have all the figures to prove the financial justification for saving these buildings.
    How can some people sleep with themselves?
    Makes you wonder what it must have felt like to shoot the very last carrier pigeon? Gosh, sorry everyone, I wasn’t thinking!
    Hans Honegger

  30. I guess having developers stuff your pockets with cash is paying off. I would not be surprised at all if all who are on the city council level will somehow benefit from the transaction directly or indirectly.

  31. I’ll just point out that the Ford Plant (pictured on the corner, above) is clearly NOT a vacant building. AND THANK GOD!

    Also, I’m inclined to agree that, in circumstances which more or less prevent the revitalization of this block of buildings (which are actually infinitely more interesting on the river side, I think) tearing them down may just need to be the way to go. Besides, hopefully the North side can stay standing, with the FP at the corner, forever.

  32. This is an exerpt from the Heritage Journal authored by Robert Shipley, “some reuse projects are more costly than new building but not all and the return on investment for heritage development is almost always higher.”

    Believe it or not, there is value in heritage properties and it is a shame that it is not easily seen. It takes insight and experience to fully understand the potential. And I think it is rediculous to make a claim that it is always cheaper to demolish and rebuild, than it is to renovate. I would love to see substantial proof of this claim.

    Unfortunately we live in an era where people want change, and are changing their minds overnight. People of today want new buildings and do not appreciate the efforts of their forefathers. Where does it end? There was a time when buildings were built by craftsman, the buildings could sustain the times, and the construction projects were not driven by a tight budget and impossible constuction schedule, but rather pride and accomplishment of the final product. These old structures cannot be replaced, and we do not have the ability to recreate them!

    I think losing one heritage building is a shame, let alone an entire block. I suggest the council educates themselves before they make any further decisions pertaining to development. This is not somthing that should be taken lightly, nor directed by uniformed bodies.

    I believe strongly in adaptive reuse, which I think is an excellent fit for Brantford.

    This could be a defining moment in Brantford history, is this the legacy your want to leave your family?

  33. The truth is you people still do not understand. That land is a sacred burial ground that has been interrupted many years ago and will never prosper. My people of the Six Nations Grand river have had that land stolen from us many moons ago and it will never do good in the eyes of our people. So yes tear it down and build a memorial to the Aboriginal people of the Six Nations and hope my people will forgive what you have done. It will need to be a tree area with paths and Aboriginal art and history of the land belonging to the Six Nations people. Until that and only that will the poison and bad spirits of the land be clean.

  34. My suggestion to all the complainers. Pool up your money and buy it. It is always easier to spend tax payers money isnt it. The sooner these shitholes are demolished the better.

  35. first let me say i believe in saving heritage…..but when then buildings reach the point of unrepairable…then bring them down…some are in good shape….but most are not….who is to blame….well i say the owners who neglected them….and most are owned by steve kuns….it’s all about the money…kuns would rather they rot then rent them at low cost….many businesses have tried to start but failed…some are trashed….the theatre has no roof, most of the backs of the buildings suffer from neglect(gapping cracks in brickwork)….the cost of repair would be to great…people whine and cry now but where were they for the last 20 yrs….nobody said anything till they were to be destroyed….enough is enough…bring them down

  36. That place shouldn’t get destroyed! It’s big and full of character. Besides, they filmed Silent Hill there! :)

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