What to Do With These Old Buildings?

By Ben Bull
Published December 02, 2009

Retrofitting historic buildings isn't easy. Look no further than the age it's taken for Toronto to bring its Maple Leaf Gardens into the future.

The Maple Leafs may be dead, but long live Maple Leaf Gardens. According to the terms of an innovative plan announced Tuesday, the 78-year-old Carlton St. Cavern will soon be reborn as a supermarket and university athletic facility

Several floors will be added along with underground parking. The exteriors will be cleaned up and the building generally returned to the land of the living.

Shopping, parking, amateur skating...hmm. Well, it ain't the NHL, but it's better than an empty shell.

The pace of change often catches us unawares and before we know it, that century-old hotel, Woolworth's department store or once-hallowed hockey rink is no longer suited for its original purpose.

But what to do with these old buildings? Knock them down, like Hamilton did with its old Town Hall? Sit back and watch them decay, like we're doing with the Lister block today?

No. Our history is too important to tear away. It defines who we are, who we were and where we've come from.

But the future is all that matters, and it's what we do with our old relics that determines what that future will be.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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By Listerine (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2009 at 17:56:26

Check out this video of what's going on behind those decayed old walls of El Lister. May she rot no more.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted December 03, 2009 at 11:00:34

^^ Lister's Gain will be The Right House's Loss

I'm happy MLG is being mix-use, and Ryerson is a great tenant to have! I'm happy it wont turn into what Montreal's (Pepsi) Forum has turned into :s

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By crhayes (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2009 at 15:19:11

The Lister is no longer rotting away..

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By Listerine (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2009 at 16:23:50

@Really? You're just a bucket of smiles, aren't you. Why do you have to be negative about everything?

And thanks, whoever down-voted me. Your personal agenda is exactly what the voting system is there for.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted December 03, 2009 at 17:20:45

Listerine> "You're just a bucket of smiles, aren't you. Why do you have to be negative about everything?"

Not everything, just stuff this City can't get right... oh wait, I guess that IS everythng!?

Seriously though, it's because the Lister SHOULD HAVE been turned into residential condo/lofts with a Grocery Store on street-level. Two things Downtown Hamilton DESPERATELY NEEDS (permanent residents with a disposable income & a place to buy food 7 days a week, past 5pm).

What we got? A 9-5 Public Works Agency (Public Health), who will be moved out of the Right House (leaving IT to rot), and be put in an Historic building no one will appreciate. There will be a coffee shop in one of the old retail fronts though... sweet! <-- sarcasm

So, not only did the City/Tax Payers get royaly screwed on the lease agreement, but all we're getting out of it is a group of Nine-to-Fivers, who already work in the Downtown (The Right House), who will in no way impact the Downtown Economy.

Everyone keeps saying that renovating Lister is the 'turning point towards a better downtown', when in reality (logically), nothing will change, besides maybe a rotting Right House. Everyone will look at Lister's lack of stimulus and say, "See... building new WOULD have been better!"

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2009 at 23:15:11

hey, we can't complain too much about the Lister. It's not like we're paying for it.

Ben, why can't we just tear down these old buildings and get some more parking lots?? There's nowhere to park in this darn town.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted December 04, 2009 at 02:10:13

Exactly Really?

The T!m H*tons and Public Health are basically all that's left in the Right House now... and they'll be the new tenants of the Lister. We haven't been told that yet... but just wait. *Our City Hall is so transparent. The Lister will be dark as nite after 4:31pm... just what we need downtown.

Solve one problem and create another one... is all the Lister block did. Thanks guys.

The Right House will be boarded up in 18 months. Unless we find money for another Public Housing Project.

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