Demolition Denied, But Heritage Still in Jeopardy
by Heritage Regina
At its August 26th meeting, City Council voted unanimously to deny the demolition application for the Bagshaw Residence at 56 Angus Crescent and to begin the heritage designation process for the home. Although this is great news for the property, the home’s journey from Heritage Inventory to official heritage designation is far from certain. City Council will again discuss the matter at its October 28th meeting when the current property owners have the opportunity to object to the proposed designation of the home.
It would be easy to drive by the Bagshaw Residence today and write it off. At a glance, it is obvious that the home needs new shingles and eavestroughs. Some of its windows and screens need repair and it could use a fresh coat of paint. In short, the exterior of the home—the only part of the property that would be covered by a heritage designation—needs the care and attention that any other 107-year old home in Regina would require.
But the property also deserves to be viewed within the much larger context of its long-time owners (Frederick and Esther Bagshaw) and prominent architect (Frederick Clemesha) and their substantial contributions to the development of Regina, the province and Canada. The home needs to be appreciated for its unusual Craftsman-style design. It merits recognition for the role it continues to play in enhancing the unique character of the neighbourhood. These are the character-defining elements that make the Bagshaw Residence worthy of protection under a Municipal Heritage Property Designation.
When the City established its Heritage Holding Bylaw (now Heritage Inventory) in 1989, the intent was to prevent the destruction of historical properties that the City felt might warrant a heritage designation. The Bagshaw Residence was among the first homes added to the Bylaw list.
Recently, a new trend seems to be emerging regarding homes on that list. It is becoming more common for a heritage home to be purchased by buyers who know the property is listed on the City’s Heritage Inventory. They are not seeking a residence for themselves, but a redevelopment opportunity. They “roll the dice” and purchase the property, hoping that it will never be designated. They decline the City’s offer of financial incentives to restore and conserve the heritage home and apply for a demolition permit so they can tear down the building, redevelop the site and then resell the property. When the demolition application is paused to let the City consider a heritage designation for the property, the owners argue that the home they willingly purchased is unsafe, too expensive to rehabilitate and cannot to be resold. We see this pattern playing out with the Bagshaw Residence.
This is a concerning development because the history and architecture of heritage homes are vital to retaining the character of older neighbourhoods. When heritage homes in the Cathedral area are purchased only for the redevelopment potential of their lots, the community loses its tangible connections to Regina’s history along with the distinctiveness of its streetscapes.
We need to change the conversation around the value of heritage properties in Regina. There needs to be a greater focus on the economic benefits of restoring heritage homes, including the jobs created in construction, engineering, interior design and landscaping.
There needs to be a greater emphasis on heritage tourism. Visitors want to experience the historically, architecturally and culturally significant areas of our city. If we don’t conserve and promote our heritage sites, we lose out on the economic benefits enjoyed by other municipalities across Canada. Imagine St. John’s without its iconic “Jelly Bean” rowhouses, for example. Or Quebec City without the 400-year old architecture of its Old Quebec district.
There needs to be greater attention paid to the environmental benefits of conserving heritage homes. By choosing restoration over demolition, greenhouse gas emissions and the volume of materials that end up in our landfills are substantially reduced.
There also needs to be some consideration given to protecting the character of heritage neighbourhoods where an infill project is a possibility. City Council is already moving in this direction and has tasked its Administration with preparing a report on implementing an Architectural Control District for the Crescents neighbourhood. As part of Regina’s Official Community Plan, the control district aims to maintain architectural design standards in order to ensure development or infill projects are compatible with the heritage character of the neighbourhood. The Diocese of Qu’Appelle property at Broad Street and College Avenue is an example of an Architectural Control District.
From a heritage perspective, applying an Architectural Control District to the Crescents neighbourhood is a good approach to protecting the architectural character of the community in cases where a property does not meet the criteria needed for a heritage designation. The Administration’s report, due in early 2021, may be used as a guide for future heritage neighbourhoods.
As for the Bagshaw Residence, the criteria required to be granted a Municipal Heritage Property Designation have been met. It is up to City Council to make it happen.