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The Crescent Apartments: Now and Soon to be

March 14, 2012

We have known for some time that the Crescent Apartments at 1550 14th Avenue are not long for this world.  The tenants have received their eviction notices.  The building appears to be empty.  Over the last few weeks, the property owner attempt to remove the Crescent Apartments from the Heritage Holding bylaw to expedite the removal of the building and allow construction of a new structure.

 On February 29th, Regina Planning Commission met to review the application (RPC 12-11) from Westland Ventures Inc. and Granite Developments Inc.  This meeting usefully highlighted some of the limitations of the City’s ability to preserve heritage buildings.  Owners must apply for heritage designation, with the City only notifying property owners of potential financial incentives with designation once a potential change to a property/building is in the works.  There’s one person dedicated to reviewing buildings on the heritage holding bylaw list.  Any changes that trigger a permit will come across their desk. With only one person, the city seems to lack the capacity to take a pro-active approach with property owners before changes get underway.

The Crescent apartments were on the heritage holding bylaw a list of prominent local buildings that are recognized for their architectural/historical value to Regina.  These buildings require a 60 day review with any application made for demolition, although once that review is complete, demolition may occur.

 The main concern raised during the meeting, was around the effectiveness of the Holding Bylaw.   In 2010 the Crescent apartment building was assessed by City inspectors and the property owners were given a list of repairs to complete.  Appendix D contains an order to comply repairs list but the alternative to repair seems to be demolition. The land owner decided to demolish and come through this process.

It was obvious to Commission members that the holding bylaw provides little heritage protection if property owners can neglect their buildings and eventually remove them rather than maintain them.  Councilor O’Donnell came to this point suggesting, in this case, the building had come to the end , to the point that it was not safe but how do we do differently in the future?

An important point leading Planning Commission to recommend removal was a review by the Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society that suggests renovations in the 90s had significantly reduced the Crescent’s heritage value.  This is a further example of where the holding by law cannot require the same sort of sensitive renovations a designated building could.  The City has neither the power of architectural control nor specific guidelines to influence these changes.

On March 12’s meeting of City Council Westland Ventures, represented by Granite Development’s Richard Jankowski, presented  (DE 12-22)  the case for removal from the Holding Bylaw.  The poor condition of the foundation, cost of renovations, which vary but usually quoted as around $250 000, and the lack of remaining heritage value due to unsympathetic renovations in the 90s.

 Mr. Jankowski spoke about how the Westland got to this point.  Generally, Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (RQHR) needs admin space for staff at the General Hospital.  Westland owns the land in the area and took their chance for a development opportunity in relation to the Hospital Gateway idea for 14th avenue, East of Broad Street.  The initial idea was to develop to the South, partnering with RQHR to remove the York building and build a parkade with retail/office along Halifax.  That plan fell through.

 The discussion then moved forward to the possibility of removing the Crescent Annex because, it was reasoned the both apartment buildings are of the same age and materials and therefore could face similar structural problems.  With similar problems it was suggested a similar removal could be possible although there are other considerations.

Council voted for (CR 12-26) removal from the holding bylaw, again they raised concerns about the process going forward, expressed a desire to avoid a situation where actions against property owners result in demolition not repairs.

March 13th, just a day after removing the Crescents from the holding bylaw, P3 Architecture, City of Regina and Granite Developments held an open house at 2134 Winnipeg St. to reveal the proposed replacement building.

 The architecture: has a similar massing as the York South across 14th avenue.  There will be 50% brick on the exterior.  The available renderings are preliminary drawings relating mostly the pylon position, parking arrangement and building mass.  

Speaking with representatives from P3 Architecture, they expressed the difficulties architects face meeting square footage requirements, negotiating with the client over costs (such as materials) and designing an attractive façade that reflects the structural footprint of foundation and pylon placement.

Demolition of the Crescent Apartments is likely to take place in Spring/early summer.  The underground (29 stalls) parking will require a dig (similar dig to the current projects at Broad and 15th and Albert and 11th) to shore up the walls.    

One of my main concerns is the viability of the retail space.  Especially in regards to the interface with the General Hospital, down the hill along 14th, North-South through the alley and then along Halifax St. the needs to be a better connection if the goal is to have people come from the hospital.

I find the look of the building particularly unsatisfactory.  Luckily, there is still time to see that change.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2012 6:00 PM

    Gosh… more rental housing down the tubes.

  2. Amber L permalink
    March 15, 2012 11:53 AM

    what no one seems to understand is this: this is a badly deteriorating building. there are significant structural problems that one cannot see simply by looking at the exterior. the money required to salvage, repair and renovate the building back into a safe & viable (in the long term) living space would be significant, and recouping these costs would have to come at the expense of affordable rent. which means that saving these affordable suites would effectively make them no longer affordable.

    one only has to look at the williamson apartments (on 15th and lorne) to see this kind of dysfunctional situation unfolding. the building is in seriously rough shape, and in order to stay on top of repairs, the average rent per suite has skyrocketed over the past few years, making it one of the more expensive apartment buildings in the downtown/transition area. meanwhile, down the street at the beautiful frontenac apartments, rent is considerably cheaper because the building has been lovingly maintained over the years and does not require constant repair just to stay up to code. for the crescent apartments to remain affordable while still maintaining their their historic charm, efforts would have had to been made decades ago, long before heritage charm was a priority for anyone. it’s unfortunate but this is simply the reality of the situation.

    • Carle Steel permalink
      June 6, 2012 1:22 PM

      The reason the rent is high at the Williamson is that they want to sell it for $2 million. All commercial real estate is valued primarily by how much money it will bring in; repairs hardly figure into it. Not doing repairs is a business decision made by people who want as much profit as possible for as little cost as possible. Buildings that are maintained have owners with different values and plans for the future. The renters at the Crescent — and the Williamson for that matter — have paid for those repairs over and over. The owners simply decided to pocket that money. Don’t be fooled by the ‘economic’ argument against saving older buildings; it’s values, not economics that determine these things.

  3. Trish permalink
    March 15, 2012 4:10 PM

    Sheesh, what a dismal replacement.

  4. John permalink
    January 11, 2014 12:12 AM

    Are they planning on taking out the other apartments of the building to build newer
    As well I’ve been experiencing headaches and nose bleeds from living in this building as I just moved in not long ago but just wondering now since they took out the other complex are they going to condemn the rest of the annex building

    • January 28, 2014 9:56 PM

      Hi John – The project that this post was written about only included the Crescent Apartments and not the Crescent Annex. I am not sure if there are plans to also replace the Annex. When I lived in the Annex building I never experienced problems, though the building was older and showing its age. I remember living their quite fondly.

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