– Matt Mente, News Editor
Founded in 1877, with people living in the area for decades before, Brantford is a city abundant in history and heritage. Many people seek to preserve this heritage, but for others, progress is more important than preservation.
The struggle between heritage and construction came to a well publicised head with the demolition of numerous heritage properties on the south side of Colborne Street. The buildings demolished on the South side of Colborne constituted approximately 40 per cent of all the heritage buildings in Brantford.
Of course, this still leaves numerous heritage buildings around the city, some of the more notable ones are the buildings left at the Mohawk-Greenwich Brownfield site.
A recent study presented to the Brownfields and Heritage committees analysed the current state of five of the major buildings on the site.
Based on a structural analysis and a consideration of their heritage value the survey makes recommendations as to which buildings are worth preservation and how much it would cost to preserve and restore them. At present the city has received $17 million in funding for the redevelopment of the land.
City councillor Marguerite Ceschi-Smith has been focusing on the Brownfield’s issue for a number of years and points out that there are a variety of factors which need to be considered including the social and environmental impacts of the area. She refers to the Brownfield as a “blight” stating that heritage efforts can detract from bigger priorities “it’d be great to do it all but we need to clean it up”
Mary O’Grady, board member of the Brantford Historical Society and member of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario was impressed by the study.
Though O’Grady expressed disappointment with the city.
“The city did nothing,” she said. She claims they failed to take preventative measures to protect the buildings which “could have saved thousands.”
In regards to the study, O’Grady also said, “The same should have been done for South Colborne.”
Ceschi-Smith was a supporter of the demolition of the south side of Colborne Street she said the buildings had “gone too far.”
As for Laurier’s role in Brantford’s heritage, the university has repurposed many old buildings such as the Carnegie Library and the old CIBC bank, now the SC Johnson Building.
Though Laurier and heritage committees have butted heads over some projects, O’Grady is largely supportive of the school just stressing the importance of communication
One possible solution to preserve heritage buildings while still promoting new construction may very well be a construction project taking place in downtown Brantford at this moment.
The old Expositor building has one of the most unique and valued facades in the city. It is currently being renovated into a student housing complex. The plans for the renovation involve restoring and retaining the original facade while expanding the building and adding a new completely modern floor above the existing structure.
When complete, the building will retain its original appearance.
Ceschi-Smith supports the idea, stating, “If you can keep the essential parts and make the building more functional you should think about it.”
O’Grady lauds the project as “fabulous.”