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2006 02 14
By Amy Cross

If you’re not an architect, or an urban planner, you don’t really think you can affect the built form around you. Buildings come down or go up, and you have very little to say about it. It seems like you’re a captive audience—watching vaudeville without the crook.

Yet, I once served on the board of the Niagara Neighborhood Association—a very proactive group that --before my time—helped secure remediation of a lead-heavy site. The board consisted of an architect with preservationist bona fides, a sculptor now in New York, an activist, a garage-owner turned politician among others. Sometimes, the meetings seemed like endless circular speech where nothing got done. But there were many debates—one about the derelict Georgian house across from Trinity Park then used as a Polish Cultural Centre. I can still hear the garage owner yelling, “TEAR IT DOWN!”

Now roaming my old Niagara neighborhood, I see how our group DID make a mark on the neighborhood. I’m not saying we did it all, city building politics are too impenetrably complex for that—but the residents did have a voice that was SOMETIMES listened to. The Polish Community Centre is now restored, under the shadow of a condo, which I think paid the big bill. The traffic calming devices on Wellington Street, were more interesting than usual: cats-eyes embedded in boulders made by the sculptor. And even at the corner of King & Niagara, I see the famous Context building, now cited as one of the better condo designs. And I recall the (unusually) satisfying meetings with the developers who wanted the neighborhood’s blessing. I don’t know if our opposition would have stopped the building, but perhaps our multitude of blessings helped. So even if I can’t build anything, I might get up my courage to go to a few more meetings in life…..

[email this story] Posted by Amy Cross on 02/14 at 06:29 AM

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