1. Upper Canadian concrete and glass right down to the water line
Walking to the library yesterday, I happened upon the razing of the Maritime Life building across the street. Back in November, Stephen Archibald sung the praises of the structure:
At Queen Street is the Maritime Life Building constructed in 1954 as the head office of our successful local insurance company. The building steps back from the street and the entrance facade faces the intersection to present an imposing view as you head downtown. In recent years a bump-out on the Spring Garden road side took advantage of the setback.
The building has an Art Deco feel that was a little old fashioned even when it was new. The quality materials and details show that the client wanted a home they could be proud of. The sandstone cladding is from the Wallace quarry in Cumberland County.
Be sure to check out Archibald’s photos of the building’s details.
The other buildings on the Doyle block were razed a few weeks ago, and I had the vague impression that developer Danny Chedrawe was negotiating some deal where the facade of the Maritime Life building would be preserved in exchange for relaxation of height limits on the east side of the block, but I guess that idea fell through or Chedrawe was simply piqued at the opposition to his plans and so got the bulldozers fired up.
That seems to have been the case with the so-called “Wedding Cake House” at 851 Young Avenue as well. Developer Stavros Tsimiklis seems irked by the Save Young Avenue group, and stepped up the razing of the house. After leaving the library yesterday, I went by and took this photo:
Clearly, the house is beyond saving. Tsimiklis is going to replace it with row houses.
Interestingly, the two demolitions are related. Alan North, of Save Young Avenue, points out that the Wedding Cake House, properly known as “Ard Na Mara,” was built in 1909 by William Anderson Black, a shipping mogul who went on to become the MP for Halifax. Black was also a cofounder of the Maritime Life Assurance Company in 1922. Black died in 1934, but the company went on to great success, building its Spring Garden Road headquarters in 1954. There were several corporate mergers and renamings, but in 2004 the company merged with Manual Life, and is now headquartered in that non-distinct highrise out by the Armdale Roundabout, which is also home to what’s left of the Chronicle Herald.
I don’t think stuff should be preserved just because it’s old. The evolution of neighbourhoods and streetscapes is part of the life of cities. So I get it — interesting old stuff gets torn down and is replaced with new stuff.
The problem is most of this new stuff is absolute junk.
The Maritime Life building could’ve easily survived another 100 years. The Wedding Cake House probably forever. The new stuff being built in town? It’s the product of uninteresting people flipping property to make a quick buck in a bubble market. Unlike the builders of old, the current crop of developers have no sense of place or time, no desire to take from the past or give to the future, no architectural or aesthetic sense, no concern for culture or community.
There’s no love lost for the old Chronicle Herald building on Argyle Street, but its replacement, the Nova Centre, supposedly the signature building of Halifax, is garbage. It comes right out of the worst of 1980s’ blue glassism, and will fall apart in our lifetimes — the governments’ lease on the convention centre part of the building is just 25 years, with two possible five-year extensions. Evidently, no one really thinks the building will be worth keeping around for 30 years. And indeed, most buildings constructed nowadays have at best an expected 40-year lifespan.
Chedrawe’s Doyle Block plan reminds me of post-reunification East Berlin. The old Soviet block buildings couldn’t even make a claim at brutalism — better to just call them patheticism — and yet that’s what was available, so the newly freed merchants and capitalists would try to pretty them up as best they could, using varied colour schemes, signage and other tricks to break up the monotonous facades. Why anyone in the free world would set out to build something like that from scratch is beyond me, unless it’s simply to maximumly fill a space for maximum and immediate profit, present sense of aesthetics and future survivability be damned.
And does anyone seriously think Tsimiklis will improve Young Avenue?
There’s no pride.
2. Fall River quarry
Pat Healey, who writes for the community paper The Laker out in — I don’t know where it is, exactly, Fall River and Enfield environs, I think — has an interesting article about the fight between HRM councillor Barry Dalrymple and provincial bureaucrats [added, 10:40am: Lawlor is a Liberal Party political appointee, not a government bureaucrat] over the proposed Fall River quarry:
In emails given to The Laker by [a group of anti-quarry activists], government staffer Shawn Lawlor says to independent MLA Andrew Younger, the former Environment Minister, on Sept. 16, 2013, “I don’t believe this is the big deal Barry seems to think it is and I don’t like being belittled by a man of lesser intelligence.”
“I couldn’t tell Barry that we couldn’t do anything with it because it’s the quarry issue we’re not touching,” the email said in response to a forwarded email from Younger. “This is Bill (MLA Bill Horne) putting Barry up to things because he’s mad.
“Bill has been pissed since we told him prior to the election that we were not writing a letter to gov on this matter. That’s what the Leader said; end of story. We told him to do what he had to do of course and he never responded to us.”
Another email from Lawlor was in response to a forward sent by Younger on Sept. 16, 2013 where Dalrymple sent an email to Younger, Horne, and HRM councillor Matt Whitman. In it, Dalrymple informed Younger he did call and gave the info to a Liberal staffer the other day “but I could tell it appeared over his head.”
“(Expletive) him. I understood it,” responded Lawlor in the email to Younger. “And I understood it not to be as big an issue as he thought it was. And to add, it’s a quarry issue. The same quarry issue we’re not supposed to be going near because of all our concerns about quarries.”
It sure looks like Premier Stephen McNeail — “the Leader” — gave the order that the quarry was to be approved.
3. Yarmouth Ferry
“The Portland City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement Monday to resume ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia,” reports the Portland (Maine) Press Herald:
City officials estimate that Portland, which is owed $77,000 by Nova Star Cruises, will receive $150,000 in revenue per year from Bay Ferries Ltd. The lease runs from June 1 to Oct. 15 for the next two years, with an option to renew for one year at the city’s discretion.
Under the lease, The Cat will be barred from the port on nine days this season. The so-called blackout dates in August and September are needed to prevent conflicts with other cruise ship traffic, which is heaviest in the fall, city officials say.
Timothy Gillespie, publisher of South Coast Today, points out that the black-out days come at great expense to Nova Scotia tourism operators:
Bay Ferries has previously announced that their conservative estimates are that the ferry will carry 60,000 passengers in 2016, or an average of 282 passengers per day during the 105-day season outlined on their web site…
Tourism Nova Scotia says on its web site that the average visitor to Nova Scotia spends on average approx. $650 per day. Using these figures, the estimated revenue loss to Nova Scotia in the arrangement is likely to be $1 million or more per year, or $10 million or more during the life of the agreement, if Portland continues to ramp up its cruise ship trade.
Gillespie and I had a discussion about tourism economic impact numbers yesterday, and specifically with regard to the ferry. I think all the economic impact numbers are bunk: no one spends $650/day while on vacation in Nova Scotia. Even if I had that kind of money, I’d find it pretty difficult. I guess I could stay at, I dunno, the Westin or whatever, at $250 for some grand suite. Buy 100 bucks worth of nicknacks on the boardwalk, buy a round for the regulars at Bearly’s for $150, stagger over to the Keg for a $150 meal. But jeesh, do that for two or three days running? And with a family of four, at $650 per? Maybe I could get the kids each an adjoining grand suite at the Westin, but I’m sorry, little Susie and Johnny probably can’t keep up with my bar tab.
I don’t know anyone at all who spends that kind of money on vacation, even going to, say, New York or Paris, and even when including air fare or, in this case, ferry fare. And a whole lot of people come to Nova Scotia on the cheap, staying in campgrounds and moving around in the family SUV. I’m glad they come, but let’s not make up stories about their crazy spending habits.
4. The end of the world
“Climate change has already lowered the level of oxygen dissolved in some parts of the world’s oceans, and the problem is likely to become much more widespread from 2030 to 2040, says a new study,” reports Chris Lambie in Local Xpress:
The troubling phenomenon is already in play in the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins. And researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., say their computer models show it will likely get worse, leaving fish and other marine life struggling to breathe.
“In the long term, this is very worrisome,” said Matthew Long, the study’s lead author.
No shit. The oceans are responsible for about half the atmospheric oxygen on Earth. If the oxygen-producing capabilities of the oceans is significantly reduced, then not only will most life in the oceans die, but also most land-based oxygen-breathing creatures like mice and ponies and elephants and people will likewise become extinct.
5. The plight of the Belgians
Barry Publicover is president of Aspotogan Developments, which is trying to develop a sprawling subdivision near Hubbards — “a 220-hectare residential golf development”comprised of 500 houses (“homes” in real estate sales lingo) clustered around a golf course (“championship course” in real estate sales lingo) and country club.
Aspotogan is financed by some mysterious group of Belgians, reports Joann Alberstat for Local Xpress. There’s no attempt to identify these Belgians, but Publicover tells us we should care, really care, that their plans are being frustrated:
The Aspotogan Developments president blamed further delays on a sluggish home construction market, which he [Publicover] said has caused lot sales to stall. The project is located about 25 minutes from Halifax.
“It’s not a pretty situation and somebody needs to have a good solid look at it because there will be a lot of developments dry up and go away,” Publicover said. “We’re outside of HRM and every development outside of HRM is just dormant – just nothing.”
A reduction in the HST on new homes would help the struggling industry, he added. The golf course is needed to spur home construction, he said.
There’s this odd attitude out in the world that the government is obligated to make sure that businesses succeed, no matter how rotten the business model or how broken the market. Many retailers have the same view, but it’s especially held by people in the real estate industry.
I’m just a lowly publisher and not a super important person like a real estate developer, so maybe I just know my place, but I would never dream of arguing that the government should lower my taxes in order to make the Halifax Examiner a success. This venture will succeed (or not) on its own terms by producing product that appeals (or not) to prospective customers (please subscribe), paying employees and contractors decently, and responsibly paying taxes.
I cannot comprehend how anyone can argue with a straight face that we should lower the tax rate on a bunch of faceless and nameless Belgians so they can make a few million dollars by bulldozing the forest near Hubbards.
Here’s an idea: if you can’t make your business work without exploiting workers and paying the taxes necessary for a civilized society, maybe go find some honest work, eh? Nobody owes you or your business success.
Oh, and about Aspotogan… Alberstat continues:
Meanwhile, the developer returns to provincial court in Bridgewater next month to challenge environment-related charges for alleged silt run-off during course construction.
Provincial Environment Department staff issued multiple summary offence tickets and directives to Aspotogan Ridge last year.
The charges were laid after complaints by the District of Chester about silt being released into Trout Point Lake. The municipality also introduced a water quality monitoring program at the lake last year.
Those Belgians just can’t get a break.
“Nova Scotia has a race problem,” writes Stephen Kimber:
We like to believe the bad old days — segregated schools, movie theatres that wouldn’t allow blacks like Viola Desmond to sit in the white section, the Africville relocation — are now historic artifacts to be mea culpa-ed during African Nova Scotia Month each year — and then forgotten for the next 11.
No public meetings.
Legislature sits (1–10pm, Province House)
Marine Ecology (11:30am, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Boris Worm and Derek Tittensor will speak on “Applications in Marine Ecology and Conservation”:
In this presentation we will highlights cutting-edge questions and topics in marine ecology and conservation, many of which require advanced computational resources and problem-solving skills. Collaborations with computer scientists are becoming a major engine for innovation in these fields. We will discuss in some detail previous and ongoing work done in collaboration with Microsoft Research, Google, and the Computer Science Department at Dalhousie. Such collaborations will need to be strengthened and expanded if and when the proposed CFREF grant proposal is successful.
In the harbour
5am: Bahri Hofuf, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Baltimore
6:15am: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
7:30am: CSL Metis, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Baltimore
9:30am: Primus, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lexoes, Portugal
10am: OOCL Italy, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
11:30am: Bahri Hofuf, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove to sea
11:30am: BBC Xingang, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 to sea
5:30pm: Toreador, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southhampton, England
6pm: Ijsselborg, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 to sea
6pm: Primus, container ship, sails from Pier 42 to sea
I’m still wondering where that weekend went.