SAY GOODBYE TO THE SHANGHAI
Today a decision was made by the Property and Development committee which may mean the end of the 1883 Shanghai Restaurant Building formerly known as the Robert/Coronation Block at 228 King Street. This building temporarily housed City Hall for 3 years from 1883 to 1886. Those of us, including Heritage Winnipeg, who spoke in support of saving the building today were told that our view was based on nostalgia and sentimentality. In fact it was based on the expert advice of the city's own Historical Buildings Committee members who undertook an extensive evaluation process and recommended putting the building on the conservation list. The recommendation of the Historical Buildings Committee has not been heeded due to claims of a lack of "economic viability". We have a case here of classic demolition by neglect where the building has been allowed to fall into a state of decline. Having said that, the proper due diligence has not been done here. The city has not done an independant engineering study and looked at the potential for an adaptive reuse of the building. Today's decision was made in the absence of any proof that the building could not be rehabilitated. The good news is that a a temporary surface parking use will not be allowed and a development plan must come forward before demolition can occur. The proposal for new housing in our Chinatown is a worthy one. But surely there are other sites that could have been considered judging by the sea of surface parking lots we currently have in this area. That route is more complicated and involves putting in a lot more effort. It is a sad day when two positives: heritage and housing are pitted against one another. We don't end up further ahead this way. Our warehouse district is on the top ten endangered places list for Heritage sites according to Heritage Canada. Decisions like this will only make the situation more dire. Once a heritage building is gone it is gone forever. This matter will go forward to Executive Policy Committee this Wednesday December 8th and then to City Council on December 15th. It's looking very much like it is time for us to say goodbye to the Shanghai Restaurant and it's rich history.