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  #1441  
Old Posted Mar 26, 2023, 10:46 PM
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Note that the Dennis Building was also found to have problems. But every old building has problems and if not maintained eventually serious problems, and every nice building has some extra cost that wouldn't be deemed strictly relevant from a bean counter perspective, particularly public buildings.
You are ignoring the fact that the Dennis Building was a terrible building for those who had to use it. Low ceilings, small floor plates, inadequate interior stairways and elevator shafts, no ventilation systems or A/C, the list goes on. There would have been no feasible business case to retain anything possibly aside from the facade, although even at that, the low floor heights mean that window openings will be very compromised. It certainly wasn't simply a situation of fixing the old place up to make it a viable building.
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  #1442  
Old Posted Mar 27, 2023, 12:18 AM
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You are ignoring the fact that the Dennis Building was a terrible building for those who had to use it. Low ceilings, small floor plates, inadequate interior stairways and elevator shafts, no ventilation systems or A/C, the list goes on. There would have been no feasible business case to retain anything possibly aside from the facade, although even at that, the low floor heights mean that window openings will be very compromised. It certainly wasn't simply a situation of fixing the old place up to make it a viable building.
Agreed, I have had a few meetings there in the past and it was pretty terrible.
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  #1443  
Old Posted Mar 27, 2023, 12:38 AM
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You are ignoring the fact that the Dennis Building was a terrible building for those who had to use it. Low ceilings, small floor plates, inadequate interior stairways and elevator shafts, no ventilation systems or A/C, the list goes on.
These complaints are true of most old buildings. If you go back to 1850, no buildings had elevators or HVAC systems and many old buildings had small floorplates and low ceilings.

This line of reasoning could be used as justification for tearing down half of the buildings in Europe.
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  #1444  
Old Posted Mar 27, 2023, 1:27 AM
Drybrain Drybrain is offline
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These complaints are true of most old buildings. If you go back to 1850, no buildings had elevators or HVAC systems and many old buildings had small floorplates and low ceilings.

This line of reasoning could be used as justification for tearing down half of the buildings in Europe.
I’ll sure even most of Barrington Street would be torn down under those criteria. I’m not even sure the Dennis ceiling heights were actually all that low—after removing drop ceilings, they were 10’ 8”, according to some Heritage Trust docs I recall.

I also recall speaking to Labi Kousoulis about this when advocating the building be saved. He insisted the top three floors of the facade (the brick) were so deteriorated that expert engineering reports insisted they were unsalvageable. Clearly that wasn’t the case, given what’s happening to the facade now. I’m generally pretty skeptical when a property owner trots out some report claiming that restoring a building is impossible.
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  #1445  
Old Posted Mar 27, 2023, 8:03 PM
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That is interesting. I was skeptical of the claims that it's an especially flawed building but I don't have any inside information about it.

What gets me is this mode where you can have a quite prominent old building in a very historic and important area that gets substantially evaluated in public as though it is generic suburban office space (what's the HVAC situation, parking, etc.). I don't think this is the norm in most other similar cities. It's a balancing act but Halifax is a rather extreme outlier given what and where it is.
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  #1446  
Old Posted Mar 27, 2023, 9:09 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
You are ignoring the fact that the Dennis Building was a terrible building for those who had to use it. Low ceilings, small floor plates, inadequate interior stairways and elevator shafts, no ventilation systems or A/C, the list goes on. There would have been no feasible business case to retain anything possibly aside from the facade, although even at that, the low floor heights mean that window openings will be very compromised. It certainly wasn't simply a situation of fixing the old place up to make it a viable building.
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Agreed, I have had a few meetings there in the past and it was pretty terrible.
While I can understand your comments about the condition of the building, I think it's a bit of a stretch to say that it couldn't have been made a viable building. Yes, there would have been more expense and time involved to do so (no slam dunk rip it down and build new), but we're not talking about some generic 1970s office building. This was a one of a kind legit historical stone building, built in the 1860s, ravaged by fire in 1912, with three additional storeys (and robust internal structure) added as post-fire repair.

I'm a little bit flummoxed that it was treated with so little respect, given its prominence and history, but I have to say that the "business case" argument actually highlights the mindset that I had referred to in my previous posts. I really don't think that it's out of the ordinary here, TBH.

Perhaps future generations will wonder why more effort hadn't been put forth to try to do more with it, but it's too late to worry about that. If the Provincial government were a person, I would almost think that they owed the building a second chance, given how they neglected it in the first place, allowing it to deteriorate to the point of it being unusable without major rebuilding and remediation... but we all know that's not how governments work. NS continues its practice of being ultra practical while apparently thinking that its history is unimportant and an 'extravagance' because we're too poor to have nice things, etc.

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What gets me is this mode where you can have a quite prominent old building in a very historic and important area that gets substantially evaluated in public as though it is generic suburban office space (what's the HVAC situation, parking, etc.). I don't think this is the norm in most other similar cities. It's a balancing act but Halifax is a rather extreme outlier given what and where it is.
That's it in a nutshell.
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  #1447  
Old Posted Mar 27, 2023, 10:10 PM
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It is interesting that for a building that was so compromised structurally, it was a massive struggle for excavators to demolish it. The lack of respect for this type of building has led us to where we are today, a city of plastic uninspiring economy structures and many more to come. If the existing window height with the Dennis Building is an issue in terms of the new floor design then leave a gap of 20ft, between the remaining windows and the new floor elevation. This area would be a great open foyer for the entire building.
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  #1448  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2023, 11:20 AM
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Any building can be repurposed, brought up to current-day standards and restored if you have an unlimited pot of money. Sadly those benefactors are few and far between.

Some of the responses are quite bizarre and frankly lacking in common sense.
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  #1449  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2023, 1:35 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
Any building can be repurposed, brought up to current-day standards and restored if you have an unlimited pot of money. Sadly those benefactors are few and far between.

Some of the responses are quite bizarre and frankly lacking in common sense.
Seems like most places other than Halifax have people who are "bizarre" and "lacking in common sense", as these kind of projects happen regularly.

Oftentimes, in other cities, for historical buildings such as the Dennis, all three levels of government will be 'benefactors' (i.e. provide funding for restoration of historic buildings). Bizarre, eh?

In this case, the building was actually owned by the province, but rather than attempt to restore some of its history for the benefit of people living here, it took the cheapest way out. Sell it off and let whatever happens, happen.

Halifax doesn't have a great track record for preserving its legacy for future generations, and reading comments like this makes it easy to see why.
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  #1450  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2023, 5:54 PM
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Again, we see the blinders towards what happens elsewhere when attempting to decry something happening here.

Most places knock down old buildings when they are deemed obsolete. It is only the rare gems that get restored/repurposed. Now, one can debate whether the Dennis falls into that class. Certainly as a functional building it would not meet such criteria given its many fundamental flaws. If one wants to argue that the exterior look of the building's front facade is worth saving then that is another question entirely, and that is what is being done. In fact Halifax has a long track record of such things, from the Disneyfied Historic Properties to Founders Square to Waterside Centre. I'm not sure what the wringing of hands and clutching of pearls is all about otherwise.
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  #1451  
Old Posted Mar 28, 2023, 6:52 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Jesus, Keith. Can't somebody give an opinion (that differs from yours) on here without you resorting to insults? I haven't seen anybody expressing opinions that are "bizarre" or "lacking in common sense". I don't feel that I was 'hand wringing' or 'clutching pearls' or whatever, as you are implying. Yet, you seem to get something out of belittling posters if they don't adhere to your set of beliefs.

But have it your way... if you really want to work like that, I can 'not hold back' next time. I'm not sure you want that, though...

(Note: I won't, but it doesn't mean I can't. I prefer to operate at a higher level than that... )
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  #1452  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2023, 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
Any building can be repurposed, brought up to current-day standards and restored if you have an unlimited pot of money. Sadly those benefactors are few and far between.

Some of the responses are quite bizarre and frankly lacking in common sense.
There are houses going for $300,000 over asking on the peninsula. Easy math says that that now translates into the developer market. Didn't exist in the last 60 years but it is there now. The days of cheap developments should be gone.
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  #1453  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2023, 12:14 AM
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Keith, show us a development in the last 40 years that evolved from the demolition of an historic building and came out smelling like a rose.

Allow me to assist. How about describing how the demolition of the Hart House was benificial for the city given the typical 80's mundane building that replaced it.
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  #1454  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2023, 10:50 AM
Saul Goode Saul Goode is offline
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Keith, show us a development in the last 40 years that evolved from the demolition of an historic building and came out smelling like a rose.

Allow me to assist. How about describing how the demolition of the Hart House was benificial for the city given the typical 80's mundane building that replaced it.
Those are interesting cases to ponder. Another example is Waterside Centre. Are we better off with it, as opposed to the several heritage buildings that had to come down to build it? Ben McCrea made a very convincing economic case for their demolition: that restoring and preserving the compromised and dilapidated buildings to heritage standard while also complying with the current building code was economically unfeasible - ridiculously so, in fact.

It's worth noting that, after HRM council, contrary to staff's recommendation, rejected Armour's proposed development agreement, in the ensuing proceeding before the UARB neither HRM nor the Heritage Trust challenged the economic case. Armour prevailed before the board, which ordered HRM council to approve the project and I don't believe the matter was appealed further.

It's obvious that saving the heritage buildings would have required massive public (government or otherwise) investment, which simply wasn't going to happen.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about Waterside Centre. I don't find the overall look of the development awful, but I do think its use has been horribly bungled at street level, largely shutting out retail in favor of office space (typically with shades drawn in the large windows), resulting in a bland, sterile, uninviting frontage and a disappointing pedestrian experience (thanks a bunch, RBC). I don't get why it had to be that way.

Last edited by Saul Goode; Mar 29, 2023 at 11:40 AM.
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  #1455  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2023, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by OldDartmouthMark View Post
Jesus, Keith. Can't somebody give an opinion (that differs from yours) on here without you resorting to insults? I haven't seen anybody expressing opinions that are "bizarre" or "lacking in common sense". I don't feel that I was 'hand wringing' or 'clutching pearls' or whatever, as you are implying. Yet, you seem to get something out of belittling posters if they don't adhere to your set of beliefs.

But have it your way... if you really want to work like that, I can 'not hold back' next time. I'm not sure you want that, though...

(Note: I won't, but it doesn't mean I can't. I prefer to operate at a higher level than that... )
Now, now, Mark. I intended no insult towards you or anyone. I was merely stating that suggesting an uneconomic restoration of a badly compromised and obsolete building in order to retain all of those compromised and obsolete features did not make any sense. Anyone who was unfortunate enough to have to work in the Dennis over the last 40 or so years would be able to attest to that. It was like being dispatched to Alcatraz.
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  #1456  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2023, 2:04 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Those are interesting cases to ponder. Another example is Waterside Centre. Are we better off with it, as opposed to the several heritage buildings that had to come down to build it? Ben McCrea made a very convincing economic case for their demolition: that restoring and preserving the compromised and dilapidated buildings to heritage standard while also complying with the current building code was economically unfeasible - ridiculously so, in fact.

It's worth noting that, after HRM council, contrary to staff's recommendation, rejected Armour's proposed development agreement, in the ensuing proceeding before the UARB neither HRM nor the Heritage Trust challenged the economic case. Armour prevailed before the board, which ordered HRM council to approve the project and I don't believe the matter was appealed further.

It's obvious that saving the heritage buildings would have required massive public (government or otherwise) investment, which simply wasn't going to happen.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about Waterside Centre. I don't find the overall look of the development awful, but I do think its use has been horribly bungled at street level, largely shutting out retail in favor of office space (typically with shades drawn in the large windows), resulting in a bland, sterile, uninviting frontage and a disappointing pedestrian experience (thanks a bunch, RBC). I don't get why it had to be that way.
I agree with your observations about Waterside Centre. That one has created a dead zone right in the middle of 'Historic Properties', better looking but not unlike that hideous CIBC slab on Barrington (right next to the Grand Parade, no less). Sure, they retained the facades, and they even did a nice job of vaguely imitating the style of buildings further north that had burned down years before (and another that was demolished by Armour), but damn, they destroyed that block for the public. Although, I suppose it has good company with the beautiful Law Courts building across the street (sarcasm...lol).

I do draw back a little when I keep hearing the stark "business case" argument. For historic buildings that are a unique part of a city's downtown, business case alone doesn't really cover the situation. Sometimes there are things that function to improve the city for its citizens that aren't necessarily a great business case, but do much to improve the living experience for them. Personally, I would include having some nice examples of our historic buildings restored and maintained in good condition, with shops and services that are engaging at street level and offer something to the public. Business case alone does not always provide that.
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  #1457  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2023, 2:08 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
Now, now, Mark. I intended no insult towards you or anyone. I was merely stating that suggesting an uneconomic restoration of a badly compromised and obsolete building in order to retain all of those compromised and obsolete features did not make any sense. Anyone who was unfortunate enough to have to work in the Dennis over the last 40 or so years would be able to attest to that. It was like being dispatched to Alcatraz.
No offence taken, Keith, I was merely pointing out that I can be disrespectful as well, if that's how we want to do things.

See my comments above regarding 'business case'. I don't have anything more to add to the discussion, and I'm not about to change my mind.
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  #1458  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2023, 3:12 PM
Saul Goode Saul Goode is offline
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Originally Posted by OldDartmouthMark View Post
I do draw back a little when I keep hearing the stark "business case" argument. For historic buildings that are a unique part of a city's downtown, business case alone doesn't really cover the situation. Sometimes there are things that function to improve the city for its citizens that aren't necessarily a great business case, but do much to improve the living experience for them. Personally, I would include having some nice examples of our historic buildings restored and maintained in good condition, with shops and services that are engaging at street level and offer something to the public. Business case alone does not always provide that.
I agree, generally speaking, but it would require a very significant change in policy thinking to achieve, because again, it would require significant public investment.

In the case of Waterside Centre, the cost to retain, rehabilitate and bring up to code the historic buildings in question would have been four times the cost of the new construction. And that calculation was
not challenged by anyone. As the UARB stated, "Neither Heritage Trust nor HRM suggested any alternative to Armour’s proposal which would be even remotely economically feasible." (I added the boldface).

I don't think it would have been appropriate or fair to expect the property owner to bear a quadrupling of cost to satisfy the preferred public esthetic, and I kind of doubt that you would, either.
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  #1459  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2023, 3:35 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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I agree, generally speaking, but it would require a very significant change in policy thinking to achieve, because again, it would require significant public investment.

In the case of Waterside Centre, the cost to retain, rehabilitate and bring up to code the historic buildings in question would have been four times the cost of the new construction. And that calculation was
not challenged by anyone. As the UARB stated, "Neither Heritage Trust nor HRM suggested any alternative to Armour’s proposal which would be even remotely economically feasible." (I added the boldface).

I don't think it would have been appropriate or fair to expect the property owner to bear a quadrupling of cost to satisfy the preferred public esthetic, and I kind of doubt that you would, either.
Sure, perhaps the Waterside isn't the best example, for a number of reasons, but I caution against using this as a carte blanche excuse for never doing this. Despite the protests of some posters, I would have no problem had the government decided to use public money to do a better job with The Dennis. YMMV.

And heck, this is Halifax, the largest and economically strongest city in the Maritimes, with one of the oldest and most interesting histories in the entire country. Yet, take a walk around downtown Saint John, NB... Saint John... and you will see that they've done a better job than we have. This, among many other reasons, is why I think the protests are a little overblown (JMHO).
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  #1460  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2023, 3:37 PM
Saul Goode Saul Goode is offline
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I caution against using this as a carte blanche excuse for never doing this.
Which, for the record, I clearly didn't advocate. I mostly agreed with you.
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