Have you ever been concerned about changes to the neighbourhood? A new infill on your street or new commercial buildings on 13th Avenue? The size, massing and set-back of new construction? These are concerns common in Heritage neighbourhoods trying to strike a balance between new and old. Every 25 years, the City of Regina introduces a new version of the Official Community Plan (OCP), that sets out the plan for future growth of our city. One of the goals of the 2013 OCP is to support areas that are of importance because they include and/or are surrounded by significant heritage properties and resources that are environmentally sensitive and are important natural landscapes to that area.
Much development has occurred in the Cathedral neighbourhood since the inception of the 2013 OCP. One concern is that new development changes the streetscape and threatens the character of the neighbourhood, the things that draw people to this space. We have lost several heritage homes and buildings and unfortunately, also the stories of those places and people who helped to build this community. Residents of this neighbourhood have been vocal with concerns about this loss of heritage and want City Administration to do something.
Heritage Regina shares the concerns of the Cathedral community. Identification and preservation of architectural themes and styles, addressing form and massing (e.g., height, setbacks, etc.) and preventing specific features and styles not complementary to the character and intent of the neighborhood are essential requirements to ensure the preservation of heritage neighbourhoods. Maintaining original buildings for their heritage value and preventing demolition with the realization that some demolition is necessary if certain architectural objectives are respected in new buildings, supports land-use and build-form diversity while ensuring overall compatibility.
A lot of work has been done over the last several years to find solutions to the problem of demolition by neglect, to the loss of heritage buildings to redevelopment, to the lengthy costly for designation of heritage properties and the limited controls on development. While working on solutions, it became clear that Heritage Conservation District (HCD) and/or Direct Control District (DCD) designations were options available to communities to ensure protection for heritage while still allowing for redevelopment which is necessary for the longevity of a any neighbourhood.
We are happy to announce that City Council has just approved $155,000.00 to consult with the Cathedral and Lakeview neighbourhoods on the establishment of Heritage Conservation Districts/Control Zones within these neighborhoods.
HCDs are usually reserved for special areas with outstanding heritage value. An example might be where buildings, streets, and landscaping, combined, have significant heritage value, or where there is a group of original buildings dating back to a specific historic period and where the area is deemed uniquely representative of the historic period. The only example of a HCD, within the city, is the Victoria Park Heritage Conservation District.
A HDC would allow protections for heritage properties not yet assessed for designation and provide protection for lower graded assessed properties that are not eligible for full designation. Designation of any properties in the zone would be based on the heritage assessment and recommendation from city administration. Designation without owner consent would only be recommended in unique situations. A HCD also provides protections for streetscapes, landscapes and important vistas and views between and towards buildings and spaces. Think of the tree lined streets, the vistas from College Avenue, south to the creek and the curved roadways and funky side streets that give Cathedral neighbourhood its character.
The adoption of a HCD ensures that the community’s heritage conservation objectives and stewardship will be respected and sustained into the future. Incentive programs could be extended to the HCD; offering economic benefits to property owners through eligibility for financial incentives to carry out restoration work. A HCD does not include architectural controls and it may not even apply to an entire neighbourhood. Its up to each community to decide.
Combining an HCD with a Direct Control District (DCD), which applies to new development, would further protect the character of the neighborhood. The DCD provides enhanced controls to ensure that new development fits within the character defining elements of a neighbourhood while allowing for a neighbourhood to be renewed. A DCD could direct materials, colors, form, and massing, and apply to rehabilitation and repair when applicable. This option addresses concerns by citizens that demolition and new builds in heritage neighbourhoods does not change the landscape such that we can no longer recognize these neighbourhoods as the oldest in our city. Again, this DCD does not need to be applied to the entire neighbourhood.
Heritage Regina recommends these two options be used simultaneously to achieve the goal of protecting heritage neighbourhoods. This would create a comprehensive tool that allows flexibility and control while supporting neighbourhood renewal. Successful implementation of HCD and DCD will ultimately depend on education and wide-spread public support. We recommend that residents of the Cathedral and Lakeview communities participate fully in this planned consultation.
Remember, our heritage neighbourhoods are eclectic, interesting, and wonderful places to live. They offer a variety of housing forms and contain many examples of combined housing styles. Heritage neighbourhoods will not become cookie cutter neighbourhoods through these controls. These controls will allow the Heritage neighbourhoods to continue to thrive and renew while maintaining the historical features and special characteristics that make these some of the most desirable neighbourhoods in our city. Through control districts residents will continue to enjoy pride of ownership and strong community for years to come.