Time to speak out on Victoria Park heritage hassle

I hope Kitchener councillors and heritage officials have the backbone to stand up to blatantly arrogant regional heritage colleagues who are determined to demolish two quality homes on Queen Street just south of Joseph Schneider Haus.
And in early fall when the self-involved Region comes to Kitchener council seeking permission to flatten the houses, I hope residents join me in opposing the ill-conceived proposal.
The boarded-up, 90-year-old houses the Region want to demolish are located at the bottom of Schneider Avenue and form part of the supposedly protected Victoria Park heritage conservation district.
The Region has owned the houses for 28 years but has done nothing to add them to the Schneider Haus property. The Region also did nothing when it had the opportunity to exempt the houses from the neighbourhood heritage district created in the mid-1990s.
In my opinion, if the Region now succeeds at demolishing the houses, it will set what Kitchener’s co-ordinator of heritage planning Leon Bensason describes as “a dangerous precedent” in what represents one of the city’s most beautiful communities
That precedent could involve any developer who buys one or more homes in the Victoria Park neighbourhood and announces he or she wants to flatten the properties and build something else. The developer would then point to the Region’s demolitions and use them as justification for circumventing city heritage regulations.
Dealing with this property issue in confidence during recent years, Kitchener has consistently told the Region it opposes the demolitions. Regional officials waited until Kitchener councillors, city heritage committee members and many residents went on July vacations before going public with the proposal and rushing to organize public information meetings.
Then, at a time when the Region has at least 10,000 seniors, adults and children on a waiting list for affordable housing, the Region insisted the two homes are unsuitable for low-cost shelter.
They claim the houses cost too much to maintain to which I argue the region should sell or continue to rent the properties. They would be worth about $1million if sold and that cash could, among other things, be used to upgrade Schneider Haus.
If , like me, you live around the park, and want to sound off about the region’s self-involved proposal I would suggest you attend an open house at Schneider Haus, 466 Queen St.S. on Wednesday July 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. (presentation 6.30 p.m.) Or go to http://www.engageregionofwaterloo.ca/.
And whatever you think, don’t count on the local media for fair, balanced coverage of an important issue that has to date produced predictably shallow, one-sided regional arguments on the topic.

This entry was posted in Heritage, Homelessness, Journalism, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Victoria Park. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Time to speak out on Victoria Park heritage hassle

  1. Skye Murray says:

    THANK YOU for standing up for the beautiful old worksmanship and character these houses have! Kitchener has a horrible reputation regarding our heritage and our beautiful old houses. It seems they would prefer cookie-cutter developments where every house looks alike rather than beautiful old homes!

    The site of the former historic Barra Castle (which was also demolished in 2010?) has sat as an ugly field with dead grass and weeds for YEARS. If Schneider house needs more room to expand, they should consider that location instead.

  2. Anita Nickerson says:

    Frank, thanks for his. The Region site says “There is no opportunity for these houses to support Regional housing programs since the zoning restricts a higher density development.” Does this mean they can’t be used for low cost or supportive housing? Or could the zoning couldn’t be changed? I’m looking at what the Region want to do with the space. It seems they want to either just have a bigger lawn or move the garden across the street. Sad to see the houses go for that.

  3. Todd Bowman says:

    Frank, you have two central points to support your argument over the proposed demolition of two Queen Street houses. Both are valid ideas but, in this case, ultimately misplaced.

    One argument centres around affordable housing in Kitchener, a worthy cause that needs advocacy on council. However, two houses that might serve a few families will play a minimal role in addressing this issue. You are far better to advocate on this issue with the proposed development on Queen Street beside the Iron Horse Trail. Or, also in your ward, the proposed development at Charles and Gaukel. I attended a presentation about this condo development at which you did not bring up affordable housing at all. Choosing to instead make it an issue over two comparatively small houses makes little sense and seems a misguided campaign.

    The main argument is the case for heritage preservation. You make strong points about protecting and preserving the heritage of the neighbourhood. Here we have the preservation of two houses pitted against … the Schneider House! It is one of the city’s best agents of active heritage work, not merely sitting there and looking old but teaching and engaging the community about its history. Thus, I think your advocacy for heritage is again misplaced in this instance. Wait for the time when a condo developer wants to knock down old houses, but not when the Schneider House wants to expand its programing to the community.

    In sum, keep campaigning for affordable housing and preserving the city’s heritage. But doing so over two homes and at the expense of your ward’s foremost heritage organization seems to me a misguided and quixotic campaign.

  4. roy stephenson says:

    Sell these beautiful homes and leave them standing. .

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