One of the rackets that happened while I was in Yellowknife that I simply didn't have time to write about, but that certainly caught my eye, was Fortis redevelopment plan for Water Street and Prescott. For those not aware of the geography of downtown St. John's, that's one of it's main arteries. I won't call it the heart of downtown, but any development that happens there fundamentally alters the appears of downtown. So it's something that needs to be looked at carefully and with due consideration.
CBC has stories here and here. The Telegram has an exceptionally intelligent editorial that can be read here that argues better guidelines need to brought into place to regulate development downtown.
However, because the curiosity got the better of me, I dove into the comments sections. Comment sections on sites such as the CBC and The Telegram are always fraught with peril. For every intelligent comment there is normally 10 who are either trolls or complete idiots. Still, I was curious to see what the reaction would be.
There were, of course, a percentage of people who just hate downtown St. John's and everything to do with downtown and want to ruined for little better than spite. There are some who argue that since downtown has already been compromised with buildings like the Scotia Centre and Atlantic Place, fuck it, go ahead and build. Some marginally sensible ones argue it could bring in new money and, during hard economic times, offer up a lot of jobs. Some argue that downtown has a false history because few of the buildings downtown are really that old anyway.
On the other side are those who argue about ruining their views, complain about lack of parking and say the building are hideous. One person made a Two Towers reference and referred to Mordor, which is kind of clever, actually.
Look, I'm going to err on the side of caution when it comes to new construction downtown every single time. Why? Atlantic Place and the Scotia Centre. Go ahead, find me the people that will argue those are attractive looking buildings that greatly enhance the appearance of the city. Try to see if I'm actually still alive when you do find that person.
People downtown have a right to be skeptical of new buildings because there hasn't been one attractive building over five stories tall built in St. John's. They tend to be ugly glass boxes. It's like architects in Newfoundland are smacked in the head so hard when the graduate school that the concepts of creativity and beauty just vanish.
Plus, and I know this hard for some people to grasp, the appearance of downtown St. John's is of provincial importance. Its appearance is a provincial landmark. It has a distinct visual appearance that should be messed with only after great consideration. Because once you start messing with it you alter something distinctive and unique. And it's very hard to straighten things up when you start slapping up giant glass boxes.
So how about a little thought and common sense. Because honestly, there's plenty of space in St. John's. It's a big ol' sprawl, and that's even before you get into areas like Mount Pearl, Paradise and Conception Bay South. If there is such a clamouring for more office space, then there are plenty of areas to build in that does not mess with something so distinctive and important as downtown St. John's appearance.
Don't get me wrong, the people arguing that they'll lose their view, sorry. That's a shitty argument. I lived downtown. I liked being able to see Signal Hill from my windows. However, nobody will have any sympathy for you. Seriously. That's going to get you a big boo hoo, followed by an even bigger "go fuck yourself" if that's your main argument against new buildings being put up downtown. Find a better one.
The appearance of downtown St. John's, and its skyline, is one of the most distinctive in all of Canada. Why would you mess with that? It's something that actually draws people in from across Canada. It's a distinctive culture downtown, and it's a good culture. I've been in places in Ottawa and Toronto where it's nothing but skyscrapers and glass towers. There is no life there. No culture. It's so antiseptic and horrible. Why would want to inflict that kind of sterile development on an area as alive and wonderful as downtown St. John's?
Develop downtown, but try to tap into that rarest of commodities when it comes to City Hall, developers and those trying to put downtown in a glass bottle never to be messed with....common sense.
1. As much as I ever could - City and Colour
2. Don't go away - Oasis*
3. Time - Ben Folds
4. Heroes - David Bowie
5. This river is wild - The Killers