Skip to main content

In Canada, the value of "heritage" in "historic" properties

While visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia, recently, I was struck by the plaque (right) attached to an 1828 building--and the message about valuing "heritage" behind it. It's occupied, quite appropriately, by the Nova Scotia Association of Architects, as a photo below shows.

The building, as the plaque indicates, is a "Registered Heritage Property." According to the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture & Heritage:
The Heritage Property Act was passed in 1980, and amended in 1990. The purpose of this Act is to identify and protect built heritage--buildings, structures, districts--of historic, architectural and cultural value, and to encourage the continued use of this resource.

The term "heritage" is also used on a national scale; indeed, Canada has a Department of Canadian Heritage. According to the department's web site:
Canadian Heritage is responsible for national policies and programs that promote Canadian content, foster cultural participation, active citizenship and participation in Canada's civic life, and strengthen connections among Canadians.

And UNESCO, of course, has a World Heritage List.

The resonance of "heritage"

The word heritage, which includes among its definitions "inheritance," has a particular and enduring resonance. In other words, a heritage property should be valuable to all of us today, rather than set aside under the more common designation of "historic," which might be valued only by those who place a special value on the past.

History vs. costliness

Thus some in New York and elsewhere have resisted "historic" designations for buildings and neighborhoods, fearing that such a regulation would be costly to builders and/or deter the production of more affordable housing. And obviously it's legitimate to assess costs and benefits.

But see for example the testimony arguing that the cost of retaining a historic building in the Domino sugar refinery in Williamsburg adds to the cost of the New Domino plan. (There's pretty much consensus about that building; the dispute now is about adding buildings.)

Forest City Enterprises has a track record of converting old industrial buildings like the Ward Bakery, now slated for demolition in the Atlantic Yards plan, into housing. Forest City's Ron Ratner said in 2002, "As a developer, I am sometimes asked if we would ever be willing to sacrifice profitability to achieve excellence in historic preservation. My answer is that's a false choice. Using technical and financial creativity, and working in public-private partnerships, we can have it all, including economic return."

Not so much in the Brooklyn project, where retention of buildings would interfere with the overall project design, including sustainable elements. According to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the partial mitigation for the loss of the bakery and another building would include “archival documentation of the buildings and additional measures that would document the history of the buildings.”

That's definitely history more than heritage, though it remains debatable whether a designation of "heritage" would have changed the cost-benefit equation.

Mixed nomenclature

Canada does seem to use the terms "heritage" and "historic" interchangeably. For example, Parks Canada states:
The Historic Places Initiative is a collaboration involving all levels of government - local, provincial, territorial and federal. Together, we have created the tools to enable Canadians to learn about, value, enjoy and conserve our country's historic places.

While there is The Canadian Register of Historic Places, there's also The Commercial Heritage Properties Incentive Fund. The initiative aims "to build Canada's culture of heritage conservation," warning of "a dramatic deterioration of Canada’s built heritage over the past 30 years."

Canada has a more collectivist ethos, as expressed in initiatives like national health insurance. The flip side, critics might say, is that the United States has more entrepreneurial energy and social mobility. (Well, social mobility seems to be lagging, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.)

In other words, here in the U.S. "heritage" might not always be as important. The National Trust for Historic Preservation emphasizes the other "h" word. Then again, some jurisdictions do use the word; for example, there's a (state of) Washington Heritage Register. And the United States was the prime architect of the World Heritage concept and the first country to ratify the World Heritage Convention, in 1973.

So maybe there's room for both.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…