Heritage vs Green vs Culture?

The new EcoDensity initiative that is before Vancouver City Council right now seems to put heritage considerations on a list with simple amenities, equivalent to, say, sports arenas, cultural events, social programs. How can you say you don’t want green building initiatives? of course we do. How can you say you don’t want culture, civic amenities, help for the homeless? of course we do. Yet there are concerns, that with greater increased density the very fabric of heritage-designated areas will be destroyed.

As a member of Gastown Heritage Area Planning Committee (GHAPC) I’ve been involved in several discussions relating to the issue as it is before Council right now. Extra meetings are being held for all the presenters before council, night after night. GHAPC has consensus on several points in the proposed EcoDensity charter, and I’ll post these once they are finalized and presented to Council.

My own views are that we need to have great consideration of plans and initiatives that could lead to rapid and radical transformation of this city. City planners have the wisdom, experience and insight to put many levels of oversight in place to ensure cohesive development of the city as a whole. A city is a moving transforming being, almost, and can’t be kept in any one form for very long. Here in the 21st century it is even more apparent that a new initiative and intensity is in the air. Frenetic short-term rapid flipping quick cash development industry is kept in check by policies and mandates that Vancouver uses to hold fast the natural transformation of any active city in the world today.

Heritage doesn’t mean keeping your head in the sand and hoping everything will just go away. Even the heritage we have today is only an echo of the use or look of a building or street. What we build new today will be heritage in 100 years, or if we look at  clothing styles, 70’s is now heritage, or at least historical.

To pit heritage against green or against culture or any of the other good and worthy aspects of a city’s growth and change doesn’t make sense to me. Heritage preserved is respect for the past, and heritage buildings can’t be upgraded to the proposed “green” standards without loss to the heritage considerations.  Heritage buildings should not be abandoned because of a prohibitive cost of transforming them to current standards – this would be a loss to our culture and to the heart of the city. Which is not only progress but continuity and history. So initiatives for heritage restoration should be retained and supported, not placed in a checklist with other initiatives, equally worthy but in another category altogether.

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