Architecture

Urban Destruction in the Heart of Brantford, Ontario

This decision to demolish buildings along Colborne St takes a marginalized city and further marginalizes it. It is such a complete reversal of things I value that I remain stunned and saddened.

By Michael Cumming
Published February 18, 2010

Buildings from many periods in the Colborne St Demolition Zone, Brantford, ON
Buildings from many periods in the Colborne St Demolition Zone, Brantford, ON

Two days ago, on a whim, I took my first visit to downtown Brantford, Ontario. I wanted to walk around, take some photographs and get a feel for the place. South-western Ontario tends to reward such impromptu exploration.

I drove to the densest part of old downtown Brantford, the place where the buildings are closest together and the streets the narrowest. This I usually find to be the most interesting and historic part of any town. There in Brantford, I found to my horror that a large chuck of the historic core was under threat of imminent demolition! Workers were preparing to dismantle one of the most interesting and historic street scapes in town. The hammer-swinging may have already begun.

After doing a few Google searches once I got home, the full reality of the situation dawned on me: I happened to stumble upon what might be one the most flagrant instances of urban vandalism in the province. I confidently categorize it as vandalism because it doesn't appear, from what I have read, to make any sense whatsoever. They are taking down something of great value and replacing it with nothing at all.

This is not the demolition of a single building that has fallen into disrepair, or an urban redevelopment proposal that lacks architectural style. No, this is far worse. This is the wanton destruction of an entire downtown street scape, parts of which date from Victorian times.

The site appears to be dripping in urban and historical significance. It literally anchors one corner of the historical district of Brantford. Its buildings, street scape and composition speak deeply of a social history that stretches back to the founding of the city of Brantford.

It is a puzzling situation to see something of such great apparent value about to be eliminated.

What is there

The block to be demolished is located in the central historical core of Brantford, along the south side of Colborne St. It is a long block that includes, apparently, 41 separate buildings, some of which date from the mid to late 19th century. Colborne St lies on top of a small bluff rising above the meandering Grand River.

Buildings on the south side of Colborne St are built with sub-structures that go down several stories. Elaborate steel and masonry structures prevent the buildings from tumbling down the bluff. These buildings are a bit run-down at this point but are definitely picturesque. The age of the buildings vary and the overall design of the block was incremental and unplanned. This is what gives it its charm.

Building on stilts, to be demolished, Colborne St, Brantford, ON
Building on stilts, to be demolished, Colborne St, Brantford, ON

It reminds me of several hill or ridge towns I have seen in Europe or North America where a neat row of attached buildings presents a unified elevation up above on the street, but tumbles down a slope on the other side. This usually creates interesting town scapes that old-style landscape painters might find attractive.

Old Victorian industrial buildings, to be demolished, Water St, Brantford, ON
Old Victorian industrial buildings, to be demolished, Water St, Brantford, ON

Below Colborne St are streets called Water and Wharfe. Streets with such names tend to be at the central historical core of cities - typically located along original shorelines. This suggests that not so long ago, along these streets in Brantford, there were warehouses and small port operations connected to the nearby Grand River.

Brantford itself is a small city, currently not especially prosperous, known for its associations with Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone and as the hometown of hockey's 'The Great One' - Wayne Gretzky. It is also close to major settlements of First Nations peoples at the nearby Six Nations reserve and has an attractive location on the bio-diverse Grand River.

Brantford has a small downtown. There are some beautiful buildings in the downtown core. From an architectural and urban design perspective there is much of interest in Brantford, including, fine churches, law courts, civic buildings and a modernist City Hall. Brantford has a central square in the form of an Union Jack around which some of its most prominent buildings are grouped. Outside of Brantford's historic core is a variety of low density suburban housing and big-box retailing typical for this part of Ontario.

Brantford, despite recent pain due to de-industrialization in the manufacturing sector, is clearly a city with some agreeable cultural, historical and natural assets. These could be spun into something quite attractive. Clearly, demolishing a prominent street scape in the heart of downtown works against such a goal.

My take on this situation

I think demolition of this street scape is a terrible idea. It should have been preserved for the following reasons:

As a mixed-use place to live and work

One of the best ways of creating vitality in downtown cores is to create mixed-use developments that enable people of various incomes to work and live in close proximity. The block being destroyed is an historic and extremely charming example of this type of development. On Colborne St it enabled people to live over pet shops, diners and clothing stores. This is exactly why people sometimes travel to the 'Old World' - to see charming scenes of ordinary people living over places like pet shops! Clearly, Brantford is working according to a different model of perceived value.

Art Deco commerical building, to be demolished, Brantford, ON
Art Deco commerical building, to be demolished, Brantford, ON

The condemned block once housed people, was a place to work and was likely an interesting place to shop. All these people associated with the area will now have to live, work and shop elsewhere. The city of Brantford is in effect telling these people to get lost. This 'communication strategy' seems harsh, anti-democratic and completely counter-productive to the economic and cultural development of a distressed community. It makes no sense.

Overall attractiveness and urban integrity

The block provides Brantford with urban integrity and texture. The block blends in perfectly with surrounding buildings and anchors the downtown both visually and architecturally on the edge of a bluff. The individual buildings are attractive. The street scape in which they are housed is also attractive. The buildings are currently run-down but this only indicates a lack of investment in their upkeep rather than any inherent lack of value in the buildings themselves.

This condemned block - due both to the quality of its individual buildings as well that of its overall assembly - is probably near the top in terms of overall civic quality and interest for threatened urban street scapes in Ontario. Brantford definitely cannot afford to lose an architectural and historical assembly of such quality.

As a conduit for history

Mixed-use Victorian housing and commercial block, to be demolished, Brantford, ON
Mixed-use Victorian housing and commercial block, to be demolished, Brantford, ON

It takes a certain insensitivity to  tear down buildings that have withstood the trials and tribulations of the last century and a half. Each age produces its own sets of buildings. These buildings will not come back. Once they are gone they are gone.

This is not to say that all old buildings should be saved. But it does mean that ones of noteworthy quality at the centre of the historical core of cities should be given special consideration and protection.

This is also not to say that cities can't build modern buildings. Preservation of historic buildings does not put modern architects out of work. The combination of the qualities of old buildings with modern design is often a winning combination.

However, demolishing old buildings in some absurd, nihilistic notion of 'modernity' makes no sense.

What were they thinking? Some theories

The question is for me was not whether it is a good idea to get rid of this street scape - it is one of those situations where the inappropriateness of the demolition is not in question even for a nanosecond. I can conceive of no world in which the demolition of these buildings would make any sense.

The question then becomes 'What were they thinking?'

The decision to demolish the south side of Colborne St was not made in a vacuum. It was made by upstanding citizens of Brantford, likely with support from parts of their community. Here are some theories of what might have factored in their decision-making process:

Elimination of decay and devaluation of the old

Old, historic buildings - especially ones that that are attached to one another in an urban block that falls down a little bluff, are expensive and troublesome to maintain. As well, some people simply don't seem to like old buildings. They associate them with bad conditions, bad lifestyles, bad choices and all around moral decrepitude.

Clearly, in Brantford, old attached buildings as on Colborne St are associated with the underclass - those who are seen not to have the sense or the resources to live in a more mainstream suburban setting.

Elimination of venues for marginalized businesses and residents

When you demolish an old, sketchy part of town, you usually displace marginalized businesses (e.g. tattoo parlours, head shops, crack dens) and marginalized residents (e.g. prostitutes, drug addicts and those on welfare). Getting rid of a venue for such things lets people imagine that they don't exist.

Whenever an urban block is threatened with demolition there is also a natural process of marginalization. Who wants to put money into a part of the city that people in power want to eliminate? The threat of elimination is the opposite of a vote of confidence. City Hall thinks so little of residents' homes and lives that they are willing to go to the expense of sweeping them away for a simple, but seriously deranged idea - an idea based on the concept of 'eliminationism.' This eliminationism applies equally to the architectural and social context of Colborne St. Eliminate 'bad' buildings and the 'bad' people will also magically disappear. It is a fearsomely destructive idea.

Collapse of multiple owners into simpler entities

When you have a street scape with 41 individual buildings, you may have 41 separate owners. If all the properties are bought or expropriated then 41 owners can magically collapse into one easier-to-administer entity. Making it single ownership makes it more similar to the suburban areas of Brantford where the lots are large and the ownership patterns uncomplicated.

The Colborne St block is the opposite of the suburbs: it consists of a messy warren of interlocking spaces and relationships. Getting rid of this simplifies things for some people but at the cost of overall vitality for the city.

Getting rid of this block of old buildings is like clear-cutting an old-growth forest. In both cases you replace diversity with a less stable and less valuable mono-culture. This destruction makes no sense and goes against all we now know about how to develop and revitalize cities.

Provision for higher-returning developments

Sometimes old buildings are demolished to be replaced by higher net-revenue developments. This explains why parts of Toronto have high-rises vs. lower-density row buildings, which were once common throughout its core. But the goal in Brantford does not appear to be a search for higher-returning, higher-density development. There doesn't appear to be any preferred future use for the site, except as the site of a bizarre culture war. Previously, the site  had assured income. No firm plans have been presented to replace this income. Something was traded for nothing.

Conclusion

Usually when I travel around small-town Ontario I am impressed by the quality of architecture and the overall charm of settlement. This was even the case in Brantford for me before I saw the ominous blue demolition fences surrounding an area of prime architectural significance.

The decision by the City of Brantford to demolish a good chunk of their historical core is indeed unusual. The buildings to be demolished are quite interesting and their site appears to be absolutely central to the history of the city. Like many such crimes against heritage and common sense it was not committed by outside forces intent on the destruction of Brantford, but appears to be a curiously home-grown affair.

This decision to demolish buildings along Colborne St takes a marginalized city and further marginalizes it. It is such a complete reversal of things I value that I remain stunned and saddened.

this piece was originally published on Michael's blog

Michael Cumming is a designer, writer and photographer concerned about sustainable design and urban development. He has training in Architecture and Computational Design and has lived in several cities in Canada, the US and Europe. He is delighted to have settled with his wife and two children in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Hamilton. You can view his website or follow him on Twitter.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 18, 2010 at 18:06:50

Wow. Crazy stuff. The buildings are in much better shape than I expected. I feel bad for small cities. Sometimes I'm sure they feel they have to do stuff like this to move forward, but all they need to do is learn from places like St Jacobs, Niagara on the Lake, Dundas, Waterdown etc..... Small towns can be brilliant if redeveloped properly. Unfortunately Brantford has seemed to latch it's hitch to mega-projects and this one will certainly go bad.

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By baffled (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2010 at 20:47:12

I read this article with amazement, as a resident of Brantford this is the first I've heard of this ridiculous idea. Yes, the buildings are in need of repair. From what I've been told, most of the buildings in that stretch of the downtown area belonged to one person, who until recently was unwilling to invest money into fixing the buildings and yet was unwilling to sell. From what I've heard, that situation changed recently and I think some or all were bought by the city.

I don't understand why they would tear down such a key piece of history. In recent years there have been problems with fires (arson, not accident) in buildings downtown. I have heard speculation about the intention of these fires, as it has been rumoured that the city wanted the buildings destroyed. Why? Who knows. I've heard it said that the city considers them "eyesores". Who knows? Much of the downtown area has become university buildings and housing for students etc. It seems that there is a shift to the north end of the city as the business centre. This may have something to do with its proximity to the 403. Regardless, after many years of the downtown area falling further and further into disrepair and seeming to turn into a ghost-town before our eyes, this is just one more step towards the loss of a part of the city that could never be replaced. The old buildings are quite beautiful and the detail speaks volumes of the skill and craftmanship invested.

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By blue collar (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 07:07:51

Hey! You got to be kidding, right?
At the 11th hour, all do-gooders come out of nowhere to save
a bunch of boarded up derelict buildings that have been
a decrepit monument to a downtown that died years ago.
For over 10 years I've driven past the plywooded exteriors,
faux painted with shops and street scenes.
What a joke!
They filmed Silent Hill here a few years ago because it was the most destitute downtown they could find.
Where were all the "Hertige" building savers all these years?
If you're so concerned about downtown Brantford's architecture,
why wait until the fences are in place,and the wrecking ball is ready to swing?
C'mon, folks, you've had years and years to voice your opinion.
Want to save downtown buildings?
Go to another town , and find a cause elsewhere..

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By axle foleu (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2011 at 15:31:51 in reply to Comment 38198

Right on budd I live in ST. Catharines with the same problem as Brantford. It's mostly been taken over by brock students partying or restuarant upon restaurant or Bar only used During the school season. Counsel hasn't got a clue what to do with our downtown core. Maybe Michael Cummings should come to St. Catharines and meet with counsel and see if he can come up with a better solution than they did with Brantford.......I doubt it.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 08:37:39

blue collar, I'm more than certain that downtown Brantford has had its own heritage advocats complaining to the city about this for years. The fact is that we in the Greater Hamilton Area have only become aware of it recently through media coverage, so this was really the first opportunity many people had to raise their voices on this issue.

I realize it's too late for Brantford, the city has made the decision and is unlikely to go back on it, but that's no reason to lash out at what is a very well written photo-journal of the downtown buildings about to be demolished. No one is suggesting we rally and save these buildings, or turning it into a cause, the writer is just expressing regret and sadness over the loss of so many heritage buildings.

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By Agent99 (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 09:49:31

Being unemployed leaves you with hours of free time, for me, it's been a great thing.

I have uncovered quite a few telling documents that our own city has had public, they just do not appear to be easily found unless you know where to dig.

I am sick of these people who keep calling us "naysayers" and "delaying/stopping progress and change". No one wants these buildings to remain exactly as they are, and nobody wants them to continue on their various states of decay. Our Heritage Committee as far back as the mid-late 90's, has been ignored. However, in 1995, whoever was part of our South Side Task Force then, gave a damn about our historic block on the South Side of Colborne, Water and Wharf Street. They stated that there was no instantaneous fix for the problem. At the time however, the buildings had many owners. It's not like the city could buy them all out. It would have been such a mess if even one owner disputed it.

At the time of expropriation, there was two specific owners who had possession of at 70% of the buildings. These two owners had no intention of preserving the heritage or architecture. Their only interest was in the land, and devaluing the property nearby so they could buy more property for a cheaper price. Eventually it seems they were planning on demolish the buildings themselves or selling them for much higher market value to the city. However, strangely enough, they allowed people to continue to work and live in some of the buildings they owned.

In the beginning of the expropriation process, many owners, businesses and tenants on the South Side demanded a hearing. They had no intention of moving without a fight – as logic tells you, a business does not stay in a building that is supposedly infested with vermin, mold, asbestos, crumbling walls, and collapsing floors. Any business running under such conditions would be realized in a second and shut down. They would not have lasted for 19 years (International Hair Salon), they would not have lasted 5-9 years (My-Thai Restaurant), a family businesses inherited from the first days of Brantford would not have lasted for three or more generations (Floods Jewellers), they would have all been shut down, or left on their own accord.

The problem we have here, is that so many of us have been lied to during one particular councillors mayor's campaign, being told our downtown is a cancer, being told it would be like pulling teeth to keep ANY of our 41 historic buildings (within them longest stretch of pre-confederation buildings remaining in Canada), we've been told they are full of vermin, asbestos, mold, the walls are crumbling, the floors are collapsing – true, a few of the buildings are in such conditions on one floor or another, but they are not all in such an ill state of disrepair as we're being told by the “SIX” who are in control of the situation, including our own current Mayor. Now when you hear these lies for years, and years, and years, and years, repeated over and over and over again, any marketing class will tell you it becomes truth. It becomes the only thing you know and remember, so much so that you start telling people the same thing, as if you know it to be true.

Problem we have here is, too many are either undecided, or indifferent, and do not give a damn either way. Otherwise, those who are against the haste process of this demolition without a second thought, or those against demolition of some of the buildings, or against it all completely, they are all being told they're wrong, they're lying, etc. Well, many of us have actually been inside of some of the buildings. I have been inside two of the buildings and saw with my own eyes, smelled with my own nose, touched with my own hands and feet, etc. THOSE TWO have no reason to be taken down, and they are NOT the only ones that are being demolished because the state of them are being backed with lies.

We have NOT all been coming out at the last hour. Our own Heritage Committee has been trying for years, proposal after proposal to convince the city to do something to save these buildings. They have been ignored...

We have gone to the media in town,all of the newspapers were showing so much bias in the beginning and were either ignoring our letters, and or censoring them. See, one of the major editors is friends with the soon-to-be-hopefully-not mayor who is pushing this demolition full steam ahead, because he believes it will get him in the mayor's chair. Our own Mayor believes he is leaving some kind of legacy, since he is retiring. It was not until very recent has the censorship been lifted, and our letters were allowed to be published IN FULL context and at first, I guess, for years, maybe people as a whole did not think to go after other media sources outside of our city to expose what was going on. We did that. I am doing that. I will not stop doing that until we can get a STOP order on this senseless demolition that is NOT backed by any logic.

Mr. Shmuel Farhi, a heritage developer who has an absolute passion for restoration and preservation of historic buildings, so much so that he owns many of the buildings he saves, was asked by someone who was aware of our issue and our facebook group, to appear at our city council meeting. He did, and between himself and Jim Chapman (former columnist of London Free Press, Author, Radio Host, etc) and George Georgopoulos (realtor from Sutton Group Reality Inc) were all given 15 minutes to speak to our council, and our city. Normally delegations (speakers) are only allowed 10 minutes, but two of the councillors working for us, and not against us voted for five minutes, while our soon-to-be-hopefully-not mayor voted 2. Mr. Shmuel Farhi had a great presentation and proved with photos and details about previous buildings he has worked on, that ours, which are 100 years younger, can be saved. He expressed from the time he spent walking through most of them (likely the worse conditioned ones were shown, since that's all the city will allow people in), that some can be saved.

The man was rejected, and insulted by one of our own city councillors who are full steam ahead for this demolition. She went as far as to raise the pedestal of a local developer who supposedly has restored and preserved and or re-created historic buildings in town. But he a no expertise, ad yet she made it seem like he did, and Mr. Shmuel Farhi was sitting behind her all the while she discredited him. Stating, it was “too late.” One councillor however, backing the demolition finally admitted that what they have done is wrong – at least not the best thing, and maybe they should have considered other options... but, then he concluded that it is TOO late.

Demolition contracts are signed.
Contract for federal funding of 1.38 million is NOT signed. In fact, if it was not for the very involved members of our facebook group, they would have demolished the buildings in January or early February and would have not qualified for the funding. Why? Because there was some fine print they did not read, that our passionate members of our community found, which clearly states they have to do a full environmental assessment with respect for heritage, architecture an native resources. It was NEVER DONE. So now they have a “bump” as they call it in the process. Supposedly it will be done shortly, and supposedly they are doing it now. It's not actually an assessment that can be thoroughly conducted in the winter, so I wonder how they're going to achieve this. Likely with more lies, while not allowing us to see the report. We keep being told about a structural report on these buildings from the 90's and yet NO ONE is allowed to see it.

Our own city councillors cannot always get what they need to see and know, because city clerks find it to be a conflict of interest for whatever department the city clerk works for, and so if they want the information, well its very had for even the councillors to get. I believe this may be so for both the SIX pushing demolition, and the FI VE against demolition.
Fact is, many, perhaps most of the buildings CAN BE and SHOULD BE saved.
If not all. Which, likely, if we had taken Mr. Farhi's offer and commitment to the Y and Laurier (their funding fell through, but supposedly they may eventually take over much of the south side – they do NOT NEED THREE BLOCKS), and then allowed other heritage restoration and preservationists have a chance, we'd be able to save the entire strip of historic buildings. It can be done, it has been done in cities not much better off financially than ours, and not much larger than ours.

Fact, there is photographic proof that SOME of the buildings are not in such an ill state of disrepair.
Fact, there is documented proof that SOME of the buildings are not in such an ill state of disrepair.
Fact, we've been lied to about the actual condition of these buildings for years.
Fact, some people who are speaking and acting openly against this demolition, are being threatened.
Fact, documented proof many of the buildings are not in such an ill state of decay are locked under confidentiality, and not supposed to be seen by public eyes.
Fact, most people either fail to see the buildings as you and SO MANY OUTSIDERS do.
Fact, many people involved with the “revitalization of our downtown”, including our councillors and our Mayor have personal agendas and REFUSE to see any potential. They want “pretty” buildings. Fact, many of the supposedly historic-looking building such as our Harmony Square, don't look anything like a historic building, and were NOT built as the original plans that were contracted.
Fact, nobody is allowed in ALL 41 buildings, not even now that they are empty.
Fact, this city has NEVER given the buildings an actual chance to be preserved and restored.
Fact, none of the 41 buildings are “designated” as heritage, even though they are, and should be.
Fact, even if they were designated as heritage, that designation can be removed in order to demolish.
Fact, the City of the Corporation of Brantford has NEVER owned all 41 buildings until as of February 2010. They had only owned the Esquire Theatre, which already had a contract to be demolished.
Fact, in order to expropriate these buildings in order to demolish them all, 60 occupants that we know of were kicked out, and about 5 or so businesses or so.
Fact, the man who owned his town home on the South Side for 56 years was also the only recipient on the South Side of an award presented by the Council of the Corporation of the City of Brantford in 1994 for the upkeep of his property on the South Side. He was evicted BY FORCE last week.
Fact, no other strategies were explored before the expropriation – demolish plan was forced.
Fact, the five councillors, including our Mayor, all have a ruling vote of 6/5 which rules all.
Fact, our own councillors, Mayor, and city clerks pushing this demolition have IGNORED the recommendations of their own Inquiry Officer, City Solicitor, and the IBI Group of Consultants that stated;

"Without question, many of these existing conditions, found along the South Side of Colborne Street serve to generate discussion of aggressive redevelopment strategies. These strategies usually include demolition of all or substantial portions of the building stock. In the opinion of IBI Group, such strategies should be considered as a last resort.

Without a clear statement of value and a plan of action, based upon the principles of re-use and sustainability, that is supportable by the community, the historical and architectural heritage represented by these buildings are in danger of being lost."

Photos of the INTERIORS and EXTERIORS of some of the buildings on the South Side, ALL Target for Demolition. http://www.flickr.com/photos/autumnsangria/collections/72157623298893981/

Our Facebook Group (1,618 members and counting); http://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#!/group.php?v=info&ref=ts&gid=264835224286

Tuesday's Council Meeting (up to 02:07:40 ends in Mayor saying "moving on"); http://www.rogerstv.com/option.asp?lid=237&rid=7&mid=52&gid=63691

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2010 at 12:34:05

Interesting that in those pictures the worst looking buildings are the modern ones ;) Given the way we throw up crap today I doubt Brantford is going to see such beautiful features in whatever comes along to replace the demolished blocks.

The core problem here of course, is not the buildings themselves, but the viability of the neighbourhood. Nothing like fixing the right problem with the wrong solution :)

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By Megatron (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 12:50:27

Gauranteed Agent99 Is MarieJ from Facebook. what a nut. She's off in her own little world again.

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By MarieJ (registered) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 13:07:20

Shouldn't make assumptions darling, it makes a fool out U and Me, something you should have learned in Grade 2.

Everything we've stated as a fact, is FACT. IS PROVEN. IS DOCUMENTED as PROOF. IS PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE. IS EASILY FOUND. IS BASED ON PUBLIC DOCUMENTS. IS FACTS FROM PUBLIC DOCUMENTS RELATING TO, MADE FOR, WRITTEN TO, THE CITY OF THE CORPORATION OF BRANTFORD. Also, if you know how to ask the right questions, you get the truth. Some people in CITY HALL are NOT CORRUPT.

If you would like to see any proof, just go to the City Hall website.

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By Megatron (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 13:18:54

haha, told you so.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2010 at 13:52:01

So, "Megatron", what's your real name?

Brantford does really look like Hamilton's dumber little corrupt brother in this fiasco.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 14:07:34

^and being dumber than Hamilton is really something.

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By MarieJ (registered) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 14:59:55

But Hamilton at least, was able to save something of what Lister Block was... They will not even keep the fascades, or anything.

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By Starscream (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 16:52:58

Megatron, you're a disgrace to your namesake.

Grapple with the arguments, not the person behind them. Saying "she's a nut" is not a valid point in a debate. Show us the flaw in the arguments, or in her logic. Personal attacks just make you look petty and weak. They show you can't be bothered/don't have the capability of attacking the arguements on their merits, so you resort to personal attacks instead. Most people on this forum will recognize your attack for what it is, and dismiss it. If you want to win the argument, you have to put some effort into doing it right.

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 19:39:23

Keep some, tear down most. Build with architecture in mind so future generations will want to keep it.

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By MarieJ (registered) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 21:45:12

They will not allow us any other option besides... demolish all 41. If you want to base it on condition of the building, most do not need to be taken down. If you want to base it on what the city wants, well they want 3 blocks worth of empty space, and apparently want to plant rye grass there (likely there is a plan our city is not being made privy to, as there are personal agendas backing this senseless illogical demolition).

No other option as been explored ever. Our city could never explore any other options, because they have never owned all 41 buildings until officially, February 15th 2010.

They have gone against the professional advice and recommendations by the city's own consultants, that they hired to conduct the studies regarding the South Side of Colborne Street, our downtown core, and our city as a whole.

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By Hans (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 21:48:21

Starscream, well said. You were the cooler one between the two. Logic and valid arguments will win the day. Ad hominem attacks will have no one to treat you seriously.

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By Alternateview (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 23:39:04

Here are a few "facts" as well...in discussion, rather that SHOUTING, form:

Fact, there is photographic proof that SOME of the buildings are not in such an ill state of disrepair - in some people's opinion. There is also substantial photographic proof of the other side.

Fact, there is documented proof that SOME of the buildings are not in such an ill state of disrepair - Agreed.

Fact, we've been lied to about the actual condition of these buildings for years- who has been doing the lying? Who has even been asking about these buildings or taking any action to do anything with them? Nobody, or at least if they have, they border on a definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Fact, some people who are speaking and acting openly against this demolition, are being threatened - Fact, some people speaking and acting against it are doing the threatening.

Fact, documented proof many of the buildings are not in such an ill state of decay are locked under confidentiality, and not supposed to be seen by public eyes-False. Available at City Hall, if you ask nicely and follow proper procedures.

Fact, most people either fail to see the buildings as you and SO MANY OUTSIDERS do.-??? People see what they want to see...you can't force a vision on people. This isn't a fact...its your opinion.
Fact, many people involved with the “revitalization of our downtown”, including our councillors and our Mayor have personal agendas and REFUSE to see any potential. They want “pretty” buildings. Fact, many of the supposedly historic-looking building such as our Harmony Square, don't look anything like a historic building, and were NOT built as the original plans that were contracted - Again, your opinion.

Fact, nobody is allowed in ALL 41 buildings, not even now that they are empty. True and False. True, now that they are without electricity, fenced and hoarded, it is a safety measure. False, there were several opportunities for the public to go in all buildings that were safe, or not occupied (Mr. P's for example).

Fact, this city has NEVER given the buildings an actual chance to be preserved and restored.-False. A performance grant system was in place for just that...no takers. Several potential, and proven, Farhi-type dudes have come and gone...just like the monorail guy from the Simpsons.

Fact, none of the 41 buildings are “designated” as heritage, even though they are, and should be.- Again, facts combined with your opinion, are not facts.

Fact, even if they were designated as heritage, that designation can be removed in order to demolish. Not sure how this is even applicable.

Fact, the City of the Corporation of Brantford has NEVER owned all 41 buildings until as of February 2010. They had only owned the Esquire Theatre, which already had a contract to be demolished. Yep.

Fact, in order to expropriate these buildings in order to demolish them all, 60 occupants that we know of were kicked out, and about 5 or so businesses or so. Agreed, but with due notice and financial assistance to move and resettle.

Fact, the man who owned his town home on the South Side for 56 years was also the only recipient on the South Side of an award presented by the Council of the Corporation of the City of Brantford in 1994 for the upkeep of his property on the South Side. He was evicted BY FORCE last week.Agreed, but he also bought the building for $20 000 or less, owned it outright, and received a premium (which one Councillor of the 5 seems to have a hard on for) on top of the assessed value of his building, as well as financial assistance to move.


Fact, no other strategies were explored before the expropriation – demolish plan was forced. False - Large developer, post-secondary, grants, one building at a time, improving properties around it by the municipality....all were other strategies that did not work.


Fact, the five councillors, including our Mayor, all have a ruling vote of 6/5 which rules all. Agreed. This is democracy, majority rules.

Fact, our own councillors, Mayor, and city clerks pushing this demolition have IGNORED the recommendations of their own Inquiry Officer, City Solicitor, and the IBI Group of Consultants that stated;- Again, in your reading and interpretation. Opinion.

As much as it seems stupid to demolish with no apparent plan, other than the wait and see approach, which I agree sounds stupid, so is the "keep them up with a wait and see approach", which has been the case for 30 years. The City could have expropriated a long time ago..but they were waiting for the saviour that many advocates seem to think will come along. Well, saviours bill at 5-10% premiums..which is why they have money to save buildings...no one does it for free, and no business plan has been forwarded to work these properties. They are a fire hazard, and history suggests a fire is likely should they remain standing.

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By Bunkford (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2010 at 01:01:32

Wow, that town really doesn't get it. And now they're the laughing stock of Ontario. Good job, Bunkford.

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By MarieJ (registered) | Posted February 20, 2010 at 02:10:49

AlternativeView, the contradictory facts stated by you are significantly flawed. Believe what you will, I cannot change your mind, nor can anyone else. It would not matter how much proof was laid out before you, you still would not see the truth from the lies.

For one thing, my eyes came across something extremely confidential, proving most of those buildings are not in such an ill state of decay or disrepair. In fact, the theatre was the only one stated as such. Up until then, I started to believe that maybe I was wrong, but since then it has been reinforced that I am not.

Brantford was an important Canadian industrial center for the first half of the 20th Century, and was once the third largest city in Ontario. Many of these buildings are the reason for that. Many of them date back to the earliest days of Brantford and are ALL built on the oldest part of Brantford. We are not only losing a huge chunk of Brantford's History, we're also losing a huge chunk of Ontario's History, and Canada's History.

For those who care, please help us save our built heritage!http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savethesouthside/

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted February 20, 2010 at 17:09:10

I think that what goes on in Brantford should be of concern to all citizens of the province, the country and the world.

Parts of Europe were completely destroyed by the war. This has taught them to preserve some of the things that the bombs didn't destroy. In southern Ontario where bombs never flew we have a far more destructive and inane force: total insensitivity to the value of heritage buildings and street scapes. It's like the stupidity of war, but instead it is completely self-inflicted.

If people don't like downtowns and heritage buildings why don't they just stay away? What motivates them to go out of their way to destroy parts of a city that clearly some of its population passionately wants to save?

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By Karen Dearlove (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2010 at 18:41:08

I appreciate your story on Brantford's south Colborne Street and the attention you're bringing to this disgraceful situation. Brantford expropriated these buildings with no plan but to demolish them. The City never put out a request for proposals to see what interest was out there to redevelop these buildings. And there still is no plan for the site. It is a disgrace for heritage and history in Ontario. Many cities in the nearby area (Paris, Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo) have made their heritage work for them. Brantford needs to wake up, and realize that this is a mistake that when done, cannot be undone.

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By Kogrady (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2010 at 16:33:01

MarieJ, you said. "For one thing, my eyes came across something extremely confidential, proving most of those buildings are not in such an ill state of decay or disrepair. In fact, the theatre was the only one stated as such. Up until then, I started to believe that maybe I was wrong, but since then it has been reinforced that I am not."

If you have information that will help your cause. Publish it. If you can prove lies and deciet, publish it.

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By bobby maclean (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2010 at 21:03:12

I believe the move to demolish is a postive direction in the revitalization of one ontarios greatest cities face it brandtford needs a facelift and it does start in the core.The future is bright and prosperous for an amazing city with and amazing past good luck brantford

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By z jones (registered) | Posted February 21, 2010 at 21:14:19

Bobby, the 1960's called. They want their positive direction in the revitalization of one ontarios greatest cities back! :P

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By MarieJ (registered) | Posted February 23, 2010 at 00:05:33

The thing about confidentiality, is it is binding, and going public makes it so that you enter a legal battle. I am still trying to figure things out. There is likely a public document which as supporting information which relates to the other, and therefore can be made public.

Problem we have is so many PDF documents, minutes from meetings, agendas for meetings, etc. are all very hard to find now, because the website updated, and suddenly those links all became invalid. Cached files can be found, but for some reason some do not have a cached file to be viewed, or a HTML version.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2010 at 21:55:40

Michael >> This decision to demolish buildings along Colborne St takes a marginalized city and further marginalizes it.

Brantford has seen its property tax revenues grow from 80.7M in 2004 to 109.6M in 2008, an average increase of 7.94% a year. In contrast, Toronto's property tax revenues have grown from 3,016M in 2004 to 3,469M in 2008, an average increase of 3.56% a year.

If property tax revenues are a sign of economic vitality, it would appear that Brantford is doing pretty well.

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By Truthbetold (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2010 at 22:36:12

The fact of the matter is the power brokers of Brantford, the Mayor the Council and local developers are in cahoots with each other and are corrupt. This matter has been pointed out in local newspapers in a round about way but this old boys network owns the town and they are so uncultured and low end they worship Walmart and The Brick and have Celine Dion in there record collection. Disgusting louts with not a bit of understanding for culture, history or community.

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By Brantford Son (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2010 at 01:20:05

Oh the fighting. Is that what Brantford children do? Yes. Well, most of the people in Brantford are old and miserable. And most of the children have actually left. Or, will one day become intelligent enough to leave. Sadly we still haven't resolved the native issue. And, sadly we turned a bright future for ourselves away and gave it all to Oakville in the past (referring to Ford). All the brilliant young minds that come out of Brantford flee b/c, they're too smart to stay and raise a family there. So really there is no hope for Brantford. There will be no sources of innovation and no sources of inspiration. The city truly is dead.

But, could it be revitalized? Possibly...how?

1. Say no to temp employment services. Don't give in to skewed labour market practices. By taking a low wage you also force other employees to take those same wages. The worst part of it is, you receive a false sense of job security and the employers don't have to pay you benefits and a pension. Out of desperation the entire of Brantford's labour force are now fighting for scraps. Go to city hall and get rid of these temp agencies or have them regulated. Do you really enjoy being called at any possible moment and working at any possible moment? The answer is no! Do not put up with that kind of working standard. Leave Brantford if you need to. As a matter of fact, if there is a giant exodus from Brantford then city hall may finally resolve the issue for future generations to come.

2. Tear down Old Brantford and build a NEW Brantford. Old Brantford is all recorded in pictures and that is enough. Its history is archived in the library. Why fret about such trivial things? Having a University in downtown is actually quite intelligent. You bring young people in and convince them everyday to stay. They will hopefully fall in love with Brantford and actually start a venture or own a small business that will grow into a bigger business. This takes time but it is something.

3. Bring in an architect and an experienced urban planner. This city is located on a river for heavens sake! That means Brantford should try to use the river to its own advantage. Build something along it that encourages traffic to go through it and by it more often. If only there were more fine restaurants along the river or a tasteful jazz lounge etc. Harmony square is a good start. I thoroughly enjoy the gardens there along with the water works/sprinklers that are put on in the water. It is also a skating rink in the winter. Though it is small, it's a taste of what's to come hopefully.

4. Make peace with the natives. This does not have to be collective as other cities along the river are at odds with the agreement. Something must be done in order for larger companies and corporations to feel secure in their investments for Brantford. It's obvious a large sum of money will not do for the native problem since the money is never distributed equally and a select few of the native "leaders" do become much better off. There needs to be a better forum for communication. The longer this problem remains and the longer needed words are unspoken, hatred between natives and Brantford's citizens will grow.

5. Clean up the brownfield sites. It is a constant reminder to Brantford's citizens of a promise unmet. I can assure you that the morale of Brantford's citizens is diminished every time they walk and drive by such places. They want it all gone and wiped away from their minds forever! The City of Brantford needs to take action. It needs to make Brantford more marketable. These sites should then be considered a long-term investment. A vehicle by which Brantford's employment will increase again if only it can convince companies into purchasing them.

6. The school systems work. There are many university and college graduates that come from Brantford. Many are very promising with exceptional leadership qualities and a high academic aptitude. If the city needs proof that it is not doing enough to make Brantford a hospitable place, then consider its many students and their desires to leave Brantford upon graduating high school. The desire is very strong.

7. Transportation. Transportation. Transportation. If Brantford cannot produce wealth then it must bring wealth into the city. VIA rail is not enough. There needs to be established a GO bus or GO transit system. Again, because Brantford is not bringing in enough wealth, its citizens cannot spend and in turn support its local businesses. Therefore this is perhaps the most important factor for growth. If Brantford can bring GO transit to its downtown center, it will boom. Skilled workers and young professionals will be given the means of traveling to bigger cities and working there. More jobs create more wealth. This may also reduce the amount of leverage temp agencies have on the Brantford labour force.

Finally, I wanted to conclude by saying that I am from Brantford. I grew up along a lot of amazing people. I'm 23 now and will have been employed in Toronto as a professional for a year. And, although I did my post-grad elsewhere I do long to go home to a changed Brantford. As of now though, I will most likely relocate to central Ontario. I know for a fact that its high schools have produced a lot individuals of exceptional talent and I wish that Brantford could have nurtured their own sons and daughters to fruition but sadly that's not the case today. Instead they'll have made a permanent stay in a distant city with haunted memories of Brantford. But there is hope. I do have a strong desire to come back and change Brantford. I know there are other generations that feel the same way. So from here I just want to say that change is good. I'm actually smiling now because Old Brantford is being torn down. And hopefully, maybe you'll understand one day. Perhaps you'll chide me because I'm young. But, the young do dream and want better things. So don't discourage us.

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By RC (anonymous) | Posted August 03, 2011 at 14:45:52

Follow the money, that's where the answer to the question 'Why?' is.
How to defeat the greedy bastards who destroy our communities with bad (but profitable for them) designs and decisions, is the most difficult challenge.
It's really kind of hard to be a suburb of nothing. If you don't have a downtown, you really don't have anything. It's hard to build a community around parking lots and subdivisions.
Good luck Brantford.
RC

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