Finding Common Ground on Heritage and Development

St. John's has a long history of the "heritage versus development" debate, and it is likely to increase in intensity over the coming years as our economy continues its unprecedented growth. Happy City believes this is a good thing, but we want it to be more of a constructive dialogue rather than a win-lose debate.

As the City of St. John's reviews its municipal plan, we see the opportunity to inform the dialogue at a high level. To this end, Happy City brought together some major voices to discuss not so much where the diagreements lie, but rather to document the views we all share regarding heritage, development, and how we can work together to serve the entire city.

Because most of our City's built heritage is concentrated downtown, we invited Downtown St. John's to sit at the table. They represent the many businesses that operate in the core district of the downtown (primarily Duckworth and Water Streets).

Many of the businesses that are the driving force behind the development pressure we have in the city sit on the St. John's Board of Trade. The Board is an active voice in municipal affairs and has a great deal of insight into what makes development possible.

And a vocal advocate of Heritage, the Newfoundland Historic Trust, was an ideal partner in this dialogue because the organization has been the impetus for much of our city's heritage preservation to date. Incidentally, the Trust is a member of the Board of Trade.

The starting point for the dialgoue was the idea that these groups share more in common than many realize. For example, the Trust has recently been expanding its mandate to advocate sustainable development; this fits in nicely with the Board of Trade's expressed desire for "smart infrastructure planning" which entails building things that last.

After an enthusiastic meeting, a flurry of email activity, and multiple document revisions, a three-page report was produced, and it contains this note in the opening: 

"It is our hope that this document, in highlighting a set of shared views from disparate groups, will help the City create a plan that works for everyone."

And that's just the point: City Hall is working to manage very rapid changes in our city with multiple pressure points and uncertainties. What we're trying to do is show the city what we all agree on so they at least have a solid foundation for discussing the contentious issues.

Click here to read the final report, which was submitted to City Hall as part of its municipal plan review process.

What do you think? Can consensus building lead the way to a better city?


Written by Dave Lane at 11:50

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This is exciting, and very smart to bring together these three groups to create a joint submission. Visionary! Hope they can continue to work together and to find common ground as we go forward with developing the City.
December 2, 2012 09:20


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