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.