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A few things as we head into the weekend…

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Greg Heil, the chair of the Heritage Committee, had an excellent letter published in today’s paper, outlining the trouble’s we’re facing with the the current city administration…

City heritage at risk

Letter

Friday, April 18, 2008

The historic Seagrave Building is lost … perhaps it’s time to save the Windsor Heritage Committee itself from “demolition.”

I have served on the Windsor Heritage Committee for 10 years, most of those in the capacity of chair. I’m proud to be associated with the achievements the WHC has made toward protecting our city’s heritage. This has included the recent preservation of the Holy Rosary Convent and John Campbell school buildings and multiple other property designations under the Ontario Heritage Act. We have been grateful for the strong heritage awareness and support exhibited by the current city council for these initiatives. As well, the committee has carried on a long tradition of annual local heritage celebration through community recognition awards, Heritage Highlights video clips, heritage property funding, youth colouring contests and many other projects. Indeed, the vibrancy of Windsor’s heritage advocacy was recognized in 2005 as a provincial standout by the Ontario Heritage Trust.

Beyond the significant efforts by a group of volunteer members, the lifeblood of the WHC has traditionally been the dedicated and professional service of the heritage planner, a full- time city staff member who would conduct our research, guide the structure of our motions, police other city departments with respect to heritage priorities and otherwise co-ordinate all aspects of WHC activities. It is a vital and indispensable role in the heritage life of our city. Windsorites owe a debt of gratitude to Nancy Morand who served with distinction in this capacity for many years until her retirement mid last year.

It’s with Nancy’s departure that our serious problems began. We expected that her qualified replacement would be hired in advance for training and a seamless transition prior to her leaving.

Instead, without consultation with us, an arbitrary decision was made by senior administration not to replace the position, ostensibly, for reasons of cost efficiency. In the void left behind, we now have heritage chaos. Murky interdepartmental and personal agendas prevail and we’ve seen a silly tug-of-war over the heritage mandate between planning and cultural affairs departments.

As a result, we fail to receive adequate support from either. The careful protocols put in place by Nancy to flag heritage interests among building and planning departments applications has broken down and big things are falling through the cracks. Our modest operating budget has been cut to one-third its traditional level. Heritage Week in Windsor was effectively cancelled this year because no one could get authorization to reproduce a few hundred copies of the colouring contest form to distribute to the schools and the community heritage recognition awards were hijacked by others. Despite this, we try to carry on. I laud the efforts of our Doors Open subcommittee dedicated to bringing back this popular program notwithstanding lacklustre financial and material support from the city. But even our recent initiatives toward saving the prominent Low-Martin House have been stymied by needless procedural wrangling evident of a city administration without an appropriate structure for heritage administration.

We have repeatedly brought our concerns to the attention of the CAO and other senior administration staff without the courtesy of a reply. We have also appealed to our councillors without effect.

It’s time for council and the mayor to review this matter “in the full light of day.” Without it, it’s only a matter of time before another Seagrave building falls to a bulldozer and the Windsor Heritage Committee is damaged beyond repair.

GREGORY HEIL

Chair, Windsor Heritage Committee

© The Windsor Star 2008

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The Low-Martin house in Walkerville has been saved! All praise Frank Vella for his dedication to getting this deal done. We on the Heritage Committee have been working with him since November to offer him support as he tried to negotiate a purchase deal. I don’t know too many individuals who would put forth the effort Mr. Vella has over six months to get this deal done.

When complete the project will set the standard for renovation of threatened heritage properties in the City. I have had several opportunities to speak with Mr. Vella and to meet with his team. Let me just say I have the utmost faith in Mr. Vella’s plans and he is truly a heritage hero.

Hopefully I’ll be albe to get a tour of the property and take some photos to share with IM readers…

Pharmacist to renovate Martin house

By Doug Williamson, Windsor Star
Published: Friday, April 18, 2008

It’s Windsor’s ultimate fixer-upper, but to Francesco Vella it’s a genuine labour of love.

Vella, 29, is the proud new owner of the Low-Martin house in Walkerville, after months of negotiation and effort to secure the historic piece of property best known as the former home of Paul Martin Sr. and his wife Nell.

But securing a treasured part of Windsor’s past comes at a price: Vella estimates it will cost at least $500,000 to restore the 4,000-square-foot English cottage-style home to its former glory, inside and out. He wouldn’t reveal the purchase price, but one source said it was between $400,000 and $500,000… [the rest of the story can be found at the link below]

Link to the Star Article

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And finally….

Save the date!

Next Wednesday, April 23rd at 7:30 pm, is the next blogger meetup.

We’re meeting at Taloola Cafe in Old Walkerville on Devonshire.

http://windsoreats.com/taloola/

The event is open to everyone, bloggers, readers, commentors and lurkers.

Hope to see you out there!

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