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South side of Colborne Stre et:

A Case For Rehabilitation South Side of Colborne Street: A Case for Rehabilitation - 16 June 2008


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‘The stones were not in themselves beautiful, but the impulse to lay each one in just this way, the impulse to create permanence, was itself moving.’ (Justin Cartwright, 2000) The south side of Colborne Street was built in this way by men who were building a new life, in a new town, in a new world, for themselves and their children. It is still possible to glimpse their painstaking effort and exuberance behind the forlorn facades. If we reuse these buildings we will be grounding our economic renaissance in its historical context. It is that simple and that important. This fact is beyond all the well proven economic, environmental and engineering reasons for preservation (which are compelling in themselves). Reuse saves the landfill and recycles materials. These buildings have been shown to stabilise the slope. More visitors will come to see heritage architecture than will visit anything but the most exciting new buildings. We were asked to comment on Colborne Street. This is the first time that the Heritage Committee has been asked officially by management to advise them on fate of the south side. We sincerely hope that it is not too late. City Council’s decision to make the redevelopment of the south side of Colborne Street a priority has focused the spotlight on the three block long section of Colborne Street between Brant Avenue and Market Street. Suburban retail development lead to a decline in the commercial activity in downtown Brantford, but in actuality, the economic downturn in the 1980s and 1990s has turned out to be a blessing for Brantford’s downtown as it resulted in an unintended preservation of these heritage and historic buildings from the ravages of that era’s ‘urban renewal’ demolition fads. Brantford has experienced an economic boom since the completion of Highway 403 and the condition of the downtown buildings is gaining more community attention. Downtown is the most visibly distressed neighbourhood in the city. With City Council’s attention clearly focused on improving the situation downtown as quickly as possible the Heritage Committee is concerned that rapid development take priority over smart, sensitive development. The downtown heritage buildings are a jewel in the rough, and our intention is to identify a development strategy that retains as many of the building in the downtown as possible, rather than watching them go down under the wrecking ball. This Downtown is unique in the city, and what’s more, its size and stature are unique even in the province. Rather than demolishing them, we can leveraging these assets to form the basis of a unique and irreplaceable heritage district in the city.

Why Brantford City Council Should Consider a Rehabilitation Strategy Over A Demolition Strategy It will be more manageable to induce business and activity one building at a time rather than one massive development which initially may be mostly empty and likely devoid of character. Less capital will be required to rehabilitate each building individually. This is likely to attract individual entrepreneurs whose very survival will be based on their ability to deliver a compelling offering and connect with there customers as opposed to a corporate entity funding a large new development. The downtown requires strong anchor businesses and services around which other business can leverage the traffic. Growth will best be managed one store front at a time until a critical mass is South Side of Colborne Street: A Case for Rehabilitation - 16 June 2008


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achieved and downtown will be a compelling destination on its own because of the types of products, services and events that are available. Keeping the existing buildings gives the downtown its USP (Unique Selling Proposition), its heritage character. No new development can recreate heritage. The heritage of the building will provide character to new and relocated businesses. Below market rate rents will be the initial attraction. New commercial developments are being built throughout Brantford that offer convenience and parking. No purpose will be served to recreate the same type of development in the downtown. Take advantage of the strengths the downtown has: heritage architecture and below market rents. Do not break up the street scape with ground floor residential uses or large expanses of institutional storefronts. A strong mix and variety of retail and service businesses will keep people moving to the next business (next building). Brantford has no focal point for the arts (performance, music, visual, crafts, antiques). The artistic community often leads the way in the renaissance and revitalisation of neighbourhoods. The Brantford Arts Block has established itself as this catalyst and will soon have store front space with which to enhance their offering while being accessible to the community. The problems along Colborne Street have emerged over an extended period of time and are the result of a wide variety of factors. There is not an instantaneous cure for these problems. The improvement of the street will be the result of incremental improvements to existing buildings and to the surrounding area and will be carried out by local entrepreneurs. The creation of new activity centres which encourage people to utilise the downtown area is key to the revitalisation of this street. (From Conclusions and Recommendations of the South Side of Colborne Street Task Force Final Report, June, 1995)

The buildings on Colborne and Dalhousie streets were evaluated in a 1992 study based on their architectural significance, historical significance and appearance. This analysis highlights these aspects of each building on the south side of Colborne Street. • • •

Architectural significance was evaluated by considering: style, construction, architect/ builder, design and context. Historical significance was evaluated by considering: the people, groups or organisations associated with the building, events associated with the buildings and cultural, social, political, military, economic and urban development patterns associated with the buildings. Ratings are on a scale of 0 to 100. 100 is outstanding.

In the building summaries that follow, please note the following legend:

Buildings of architectural significance

Buildings of historical significance

NOTE: An inspection by fire department personnel of many of these building in 2005 indicated that the roofs are sound and the basements are dry. No visible wall cracks were observed.

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Building Summaries Block between Market Street and Mill Street (Between Grand River Ha2 and the Art Stanbridge Walkway) The block between 115 Colborne Street and 139 Colborne Street represents one of the largest surviving blocks of pre-confederation buildings remaining in Canada.

149 Colborne Street Minor’s Jewellry Built: 1876 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 33 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 33 All original detailing has been obscured.

151 Colborne Street Smith Building Built: 1867 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 73 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 83

137 Colborne Street Shannon Building Built: 1867 Style: Georgian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 67 Appearance rating: 75 A large impressive grocer’s warehouse exists at the rear facing onto Water Street. 143 Colborne Street The Right House Built: 1870 Style: Beaux Arts Architecture rating: 80 History rating: 67 Appearance rating: 92 Ogilvie Department Stores started at this location. Façade completely rebuilt in 1914. Fine example of early modern construction methods. Building is 36,000 sq ft.

139 Colborne Street Foster Building Built: 1867 Style: Georgian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 75 An A&P store in the 1930s.

South Side of Colborne Street: A Case for Rehabilitation - 16 June 2008

135 Colborne Street Shannon Building Built: 1867 Style: Georgian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 67 Appearance rating: 75


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119 Colborne Street Laughrey Block Built: 1865 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 53 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 50

131 Colborne Street Shannon Building Built: 1867 Style: Georgian Commerical Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 67 Appearance rating: 75

129 Colborne Street 127 Colborne Street Laughrey Block Built: 1865 Style: Victorian Commerical Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 67 Appearance rating: 75 John Agnew was a shoemaker here before founding Agnew-Surpass.

This was the walkway to the grocer’s warehouse until a Shoe Shine Parlour was built in 1926.

123 Colborne Street 121 Colborne Street Laughrey Block Built: 1865 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 78 Appearance rating: 75 Brantford’s Bell Telephone office was located at 121 Colborne Street in the 1890s.

125 Colborne Street Laughrey Block Built: 1865 Style:Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 75

South Side of Colborne Street: A Case for Rehabilitation - 16 June 2008

115 Colborne Street Laughrey Block Built: 1850 Style: Georgian Commercial Architecture rating: 73 History rating: 89 Appearance rating: 75 Very significant early building. Jaspar Gilkison had offices here on the upper floors. Jaspar was an important historical figure connected to the Great Western Railway, the first telegraph line in Canada and he was Superintendent of the Six Nations from 1862 to 1891.


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Block between Mill Street and Cove Street (Between the Art Stanbridge Walkway and King Street) 95 Colborne Street Built: 1878 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 67 Lot purchased in 1830 and initially used as a garden.

113 Colborne Street Built: 1885 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 75 This is the only corner building on the south side in downtown. 111 Colborne Street 107 Colborne Street Arunah Huntington Block Built: 1870 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 75

99 Colborne Street Built: 1880 Style:Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 75 Retail premises of the Turnbull Stove Company, a local manufacturer.

103 Colborne Street Arunah Huntington Block Built: 1870 Style:Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 75

83 Colborne Street Whitney Building Built: 1880 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 73 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 75 Noteworthy for its large plate glass windows when built. It was the largest furniture showroom in town, 8,000 sq ft.

91 Colborne Street Brooks Building Built: 1865 Style: Georgian Commercial Architecture rating: 47 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 42

101 Colborne Street Matthews Building Built: 1867 Style: Georgian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 75

South Side of Colborne Street: A Case for Rehabilitation - 16 June 2008

87 Colborne Street Dominion House Furnishings Co Built: 1915 Style: Edwardian Commercial Architecture rating: 73 History rating: 67 Appearance rating: 67 Former site of the Gem Theatre (which burned in 1915), one of the first Allen movie theatres.

79 Colborne Street Pattison Building Built: 1874 Style: Renaissance Revival Architecture rating: 73 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 75

81 Colborne Street Howell Building Built: 1871 Style: Second Empire Architecture rating: 73 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 75


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77 Colborne Street Bellhouse Block Built: 1870 Style: Renaissance Revival Architecture rating: 80 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 83 Original 6 over 6 sash windows are still in place.

65 Colborne Street Esquire Theatre Built: 1937 Style: Art Deco Architecture rating: 60 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 58 The theatre originally seated 982.

75 Colborne Street 73 Colborne Street Bellhouse Block Built: 1870 Style: Renaissance Revival Architecture rating: 80 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 83

63 Colborne Street Brantford Willowworks Built: 1901 Style: Edwardian Commercial Architecture rating: 73 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 83 Brantford Willowworks occupied the building continuously from 1901 until the 1950s.

71 Colborne Street Bellhouse Block Built: 1870 Style: Renaissance Revival Architecture rating: 80 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 92 Early recessed shopfront and entry is largely intact.

South Side of Colborne Street: A Case for Rehabilitation - 16 June 2008

53 Colborne Street Built: 1870 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 73 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 83 There is Italiante stylistic influence.

59 Colborne Street Brantford Granite & Marble Built: 1905 Style: Edwardian Commercial Architecture rating: 60 History rating: 56 Appearance rating: 75 57 Colborne Street Built: 1890 Style: Victorian Commercial Architecture rating: 40 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 50


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Block between Cove Street and Brant Avenue

45 Colborne Street E. Holt Block Built: 1908 Style: Edwardian Commercial Architecture rating: 60 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 50 49 Colborne Street Built: 1908 Style: Edwardian Commercial Architecture rating: 67 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 67 The original storefronts have been completely removed.

41 Colborne Street J. Holt Block Built: 1913 Style: Edwardian Commercial Architecture rating: 60 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 75 The original storefronts have been completely removed.

43 Colborne Street J. Holt Block Built: 1913 Style: Edwardian Commercial Architecture rating: 60 History rating: 44 Appearance rating: 75

South Side of Colborne Street: A Case for Rehabilitation - 16 June 2008

35 Colborne Street Huntiongton Block Built: 1867 Style: Georgian Commercial Architecture rating: 73 History rating: 67 Appearance rating: 75 Originally constructed as a major warehouse.


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Recommendations While there are many buildings that have played a large part in the history of both Brantford and the country, we acknowledge that in order for the downtown to be revitalized some will likely need to be sacrificed. However, many of these are simply good buildings under tacky veneer, and some have fascinating and important histories. The Heritage Committee recognizes that saving stand-alone buildings may not always be practical for a number of reasons. Considering that, the Heritage Committee advises that the City keep at least two blocks of buildings  on the south side of Colborne Street, and elsewhere save good buildings where possible. This solution would provide plenty of room for complimentary contemporary uses, while still maintaining the uniquely historic character of the downtown core. It would also provide loft type housing, a varied streetscape and small quirky spaces for individual entrepreneurs.

This concept drawing of the south side of Colborne Street focuses on the block fronting Harmony Square. We have shown what the streetscape could look like if the buildings are cleaned and rehabilitated. Notice how the existing architectural details of the buildings come to life. Note that the YMCA, only its entrance is on Colborne Street. The storefront spaces to the sides of the entryway are separate retail space to ensure an uninterrupted and varied flow of retail activity along the street.

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Conclusions For years architects and connoisseurs of architecture have marveled at the resource that Brantford has in Colborne Street. Time after time we have been urged to save and recycle these buildings. South Colborne Street has been spared the disasters of the urban renewal boom of the 1970s and 1980s. On Colborne Street we have kept our historical framework. We still have the basis of a walkable downtown. And we have a new generation living in the core. Well designed and well built modern buildings mingling with our renovated historical architecture will give us a unique framework for a vibrant downtown.

Source documents: • South Side of Colborne Street Task Force Final Report. City of Brantford, June 1995 • Heritage Inventory For the City of Brantford, Areas One and Two,Volume I, Jedd Jones, Architect / Jill Taylor, Architect, 24January, 1992.

South Side of Colborne Street: A Case for Rehabilitation - 16 June 2008

The South Side of Colborne Street: A Case for Rehabilitation  

Advocacy document created by Brantford Heritage Committee to attempt to educate city council on why this historic street should not be demol...

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