Council Tuesday approved construction of the 19-storey "Trillium" building for the corner of South Park Street and Brenton Place.
Many residents of the nearby historic Schmidtville area spoke against the project, but it was an uphill battle from the start: The immediate area already contains many high rises, including the truly horrifying 21-storey Park Victoria one block to the south; wind and shadow studies (supposedly) show only minimum, "manageable" effects; and the site of the new building is now occupied by what councillor Sheila Fougere referred to as "a derelict slum."
All of these points are contestable, but what I found noteworthy was how the arguments were framed: opponents are "hostile to development" and "stuck in the past," while proponents are "environmentally conscious" and "looking to the future." Opponents are NIMBYs; proponents are concerned about creating a high-density urban core attractive to young professionals.Some people *do* have a knee-jerk reaction against all development, period, but, I found in actually talking to Trillium opponents, most have a much more nuanced view of the situation.
And, proponents aren't so progressive as they may think. For one, the Trillium's 80 units will likely sell for $400,000 or more, not at all affordable for working young people. On the environmental front, the developer admits he hasn't yet researched energy efficiency standards, and architectural drawings show what looks like several hundred high-voltage exterior lights trained on the building.
The argument that shoving people into tall buildings is by itself an environmental plus is just that: an argument. It seems self-evident to those who make it, but it isn't necessarily backed up by the reality of how people live their lives.The most interesting comments of the evening came from Murielle Tramblay, a French immigrant with a degree in environmental architecture. "My city was completely destroyed by this sense of modernity," she said. " There's a myth that bigger is better, but there's another way to build."
" accuse of living in the past, but they're also living in the past," she said. "Architecture in Europe has moved on; we're looking at the entire environmental picture, the social part of it and the cultural geography. It should be taught in architectural programs here, but isn't."