We all have strong memories of a certain building from the early part of our life. It may be the school we attended, the house we lived in, or the shops that we often visited.
These are the buildings which embody the history of a community. When they are lost, a special connection with the past is lost also. This means that photographs, drawings, paintings and maps, in which those buildings appear can lose their relevance.
My wish for the future is that owners of these buildings be given opportunities to appreciate the value of the existing buildings that they own and that realtors similarly have their awareness raised to the importance of not describing an older building as a ‘tear-down’
My vision is that there will be established a program of orientation sessions directed to owners and realtors. To make this possible, it will require the support, coordination and cooperation of several groups in each municipality: the outside volunteer Heritage Advocacy group, the municipality’s own Heritage Advisory Committee, and the mayor and council. The last will need to demonstrate the political will to appropriately fund and approve staffing for such a program.
In 2019, I would like to see informational signage illustrated with historical photos showing how the view of the street used to look and with text to inform passers-by about the buildings in the vicinity. I would like to see a new pride in the heritage buildings of our community and a positive and helpful response at each municipality’s planning department of anyone approaching them with plans to retain a heritage building. We already have planning mechanisms to make this advantageous to a property owner and I would like to see this process become a regular occurrence.
To achieve this end, it will be necessary for all the groups mentioned above to organize a series of seminars aimed at – and with invitations issued to – homeowners, realtors, and planning department staff in all three north shore municipalities. The participants in these seminars will come away with an appreciation of the value of heritage buildings whether as a result of their architectural design, the role that they played in the community, or the details of the lives of their former owners.
They will also be given an explanation of the various planning tools designed to provide incentives to encourage their retention. They will have an understanding of the benefits that they could enjoy in exchange for agreeing not to demolish a building but rather to assure its protection through the use of a covenant and then take advantage of the privileges offered under a Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) which may enable several residences to be created on a property in a planning zone designated for single family houses only.
My vision is that these education sessions result in a smooth and welcoming administrative process from initial approaches to staff at planning counters, through the permits and licences process to the presentations to, and deliberations by, councils. The result of all these hoped-for developments should be a new-found pride in our community’s heritage, attractively refurbished older properties proudly announcing their lineage, former owners, or previous function in the locality.
Visitors would be attracted by the pleasure of seeing such well-maintained older buildings and the opportunity to explore our townships and introduce their children to life in the ‘olden days’ through graphic signage illustrating the changes in ‘Then and Now’ information panels. What a pleasure it will be to show that the certain building from our childhood still stands exactly where it has always been and explain to the younger generation why it holds a special place in our heart.
Peter Miller is the president of North Shore Heritage Preservation Society