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The Kramer buildings general discussion incl. The Janion | Morley Soda Water Factory

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#41 Number Six

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 08:52 AM

There is a lengthy part of the City of Victoria website about heritage designation. It cannot be done without the owner asking for it. The heritage registry contains no provisions to protect the property it only allows a person to apply for designation.

From today's TC (linked to previously in this thread):

...On Thursday, Victoria city council hurriedly bought itself some time by putting the structures under 60-day protection, using rarely used rules of the Local Government Act aimed at saving heritage buildings.
Steve Barber, the city's heritage planner, said the delay will give staff time to make recommendations to council on the city's options.
He confirmed he will be recommending designating the buildings as heritage properties without the owner's permission. It's a step municipal governments take cautiously, as it can result in legal and financial consequences....

#42 Rorschach


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Posted 15 March 2008 - 08:54 AM

I suggest if Kramer is holding out selling because of some kind of will stipulation that she get better lawyers. It's long been established that "dead hand" clauses that limit alienation of land are unenforceable. I still think expropriation of all of the buildings is the way to go. It might even work to the city's advantage if there is some kind of contractual impediment to her selling since that will make the value fixed at the value of dilapidated unused and unusable buildings.

#43 WSgrrl

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 01:31 PM

In this day and age even new buildings struggle to get off the ground finaically. With the higher seismic requirements in the latest building code and the threat of steel prices skyrocketing, there is no way a "tax holiday" will soften the blow to make these buildings spring back to life. Either the city needs to sweeten the pot or realize that old brick buildings just won't last forever.

#44 aastra

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 01:37 PM

Houston said his clients don't want to demolish the buildings. "The problem my clients face is that they would like to develop the properties, but the cost of doing so, and keeping the current facades in place -- you can't do it economically."

I just can't believe that the city and the Kramer family couldn't work something out that would make it feasible to successfully redevelop the Janion (and adjacent lots), the soda factory building, and the Northern Junk site, while also restoring/preserving the historic buildings at each site (to a reasonable satisfaction). Is Mr. Houston assuming that he'll have to build small because these sites are in the old town? If so, here's the city's chance to step forward and come to some mutually beneficial arrangement.

I'm not clear as to exactly how much land the Kramer family owns at the Janion and Northern Junk sites, but aerial images show a heck of a lot of space in both places. This is some seriously prime waterfront. The potential would seem to be tremendous, even at (let's say) 9 stories or less.

#45 Holden West

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 03:53 PM

I believe the majority of the shoreline lot behind the Janion is Transport Canada. It will be tough to buy it off them but without it the Janion is useless.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
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#46 oracle of delphi

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 08:16 PM

There are a few mis-facts here. Being an architect in Victoria and Vancouver, I'm familiar with these building. There have been a number of attempts to get these buildings developed. I'm no fan of seeing potentially beautiful old buildings like these go vacant for decades, but nature and the city have a lot of blame here. As nice as these are, especially the Janion, there in bad shape structurally. I know that city has rejected at least a couple of proposals for development from serious co-developers with Ms Kramer. ( a boutique hotel chain from the U.S., and a Calgary-based investment company). Each would require significant demolition and rebuilding. The city rejected both. Rumour has it the city thinks it will be willed the property upon the owner's passing, and doesn't want anyone to stop that. Another big issue is the soundness of the structure. As mentioned earlier in this forum, the brick structure would collapse with a moderate quake. As mortar ages, it's strength deteriorates. Putting a steel infrastructure in place would cost millions. The Janion is a huge, heavy building. Most disturbing though, is the foundation. It's ancient, deteriorating and sinking. It'll likely collapse in ten years with global warming and the higher ocean levels. Best prospect for these buildings is to save parts of the facade and build around it, like Sir James Douglas Elementary.

#47 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 09:47 PM

Rumour has it the city thinks it will be willed the property upon the owner's passing, and doesn't want anyone to stop that.

Are you serious? I'd be pretty mad if it were true that the city essentially held these properties in limbo for the sake of an abstract principle of preservation... Urbanism is not some sort of chess game, with buildings as pawns, IMO.
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#48 Caramia

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 11:26 PM

I've never heard anyone from the city suggest that they had any thought that they might be willed the buildings. Interesting rumour, but probably just that.

I know personally of one attempt by a local business to buy the Janion. Mrs Kramer replied with a letter saying the buildings were not for sale but she would entertain a lease. The business was willing to restore the building, and had already restored other buildings in old town successfully. If Mrs Kramer is unable to do this herself, why would she continue to let the buildings degrade instead of passing it off to someone who felt they could get the job done?

Also, welcome to the forum Oracle, I like your alias!

#49 Rorschach


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Posted 16 March 2008 - 06:36 AM

I noticed that the Vibrant Victoria discussion is referenced directly today in the Times-Colonist. However, I dispute that this site is "pro-development." The viewpoints here are pretty balanced and varied on everything and every topic.

I do have strong opinions and enjoy posting them here and getting them put to the test. I've been wrong plenty of times and I've had my opinion changed on many topics by many of you.

Victoria has a high percentage of highly intelligent people and I'm convinced that solutions and ideas and answers are abundant in our little corner of the best place on Earth.

And to get back on point, I doubt Kramer is going to will the properties to the city because of the demolition permit application. I do appreciate the posting from oracle of delphi. I'm no Howard Roark, but there has got to be a way to engineer around the structural problems of the buildings. It is a cost issue. But, as the paper pointed out this morning, several other heritage buildings have been successfully renovated.

New foundations can be sunk within the brick shell and the crumbling brick exterior can be fortified from the inside. I'm thinking along the lines similar to blow-in insulation -- some kind of insulating adhesive goo that's going to hold on to the bricks from the inside and attach it to the new framework. It just seems like a design short of taking the building apart brick by brick and re-assembling it with modern materials is possible.

The solution is going to take some thought, engineering, and creativity. Having a visionary city planner would be nice. Since we apparently don't I imagine the building will remain vacant and undeveloped. Has the city come up with any ideas besides the heritage designation?

The newspaper also said that expropriation can't be used for heritage preservation. To me that's a little deceptive. Private lands can be expropriated for public purposes. It simply is going to take someone to explain the public purpose of the expropriation properly. Just keeping them as they are is not a public purpose as heritage designation would do.

But... economic benefit to the public from restoring and developing the buildings and the economic risks to the public should these buildings collapse in an earthquake seems to be reason enough to seize the lands for public purposes. Even if the public purpose is to sell it to someone who will develop and repair/make safe the dangerous property. In the end, properly developing the property while preserving its heritage is a legitimate public purpose. It's going to in the long run save the city millions.

It's going to take creative engineers and creative city planners and creative lawyers... shit! Fat chance of that. I guess the building are going to be demolished after all. The city should just grant the demolition permits. With so many intelligent people in this area the roadblocks to a solution are not intellectual but political. No amount of genius can change the political climate of Victoria.

Just demolish the damn things then. We've got rubble in the minds of our leadership so we might as well have real rubble instead of dilapidated dangerous "heritage" buildings. The city should just call Kramer's bluff. She probably knows of the buildings dangerousness and the city blocking the demolition permit is just the excuse she needs to avoid responsibility for an eminent catastrophe.

#50 gumgum

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 07:15 AM

Publisher eyed Janion building for his business
Many people have approached owner about properties, without success

#51 Rorschach


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Posted 16 March 2008 - 08:04 AM

It's time for the Times-Colonist to interview Kramer directly and print a big feature on the buildings with lots of photos and history. We all need to know first hand what her reasons are for leaving the places vacant and unused for decades, refusing to sell and/or what she'd like to see done with them.

Everyone wants to know why she didn't sell. She may as well tap into her celebrity now and get her side told before she passes on. She can become part of history here and set the record straight. I can't see why her lawyers would tell her not to talk, unless she's some crazy old coot who would just talk a bunch of nonsense and embarrass herself. I'm not saying she is any of that, I'm just trying to figure out some reason for what is going on here.

I'd like to see pictures of the inside of all the places even if they are vacant. And someone has to have information in their attic about who designed the buildings. Where are the intrepid reporters? This is a good story.

#52 gumgum

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 08:59 AM

I starting to think they should just rip down the guts of the Janion and preserve the facade. And nobody tell me that that's not possible, because I've seen it done dozens of times in buildings of a similar age, in similar condition.
I'm not sure about the soda building.

I appreciate Heiman's perseverance on this story. She's likely tried to contact Kramer directly but was blockaded by the lawyer. She should mention whether she tried to contact Kramer or not in her article.

Here's more about the Soda building from today's TC:
Hidden charms of Morley's Soda Factory include Klondike-era courtyard at back
Owner's spokesman says city tax breaks aren't enough

#53 Murray

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 09:02 AM

Dream on - follow the money. Just shows you how much an owner of downtown property can get away with in Victoria. This game has played out
for decades and Kramer is playing her game as Victoria council stands back
and does nothing. No more tax breaks for this broad. It should be torn down and a new modern building to replace it.

#54 KublaKhan

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 09:52 AM

I'm a little surprised that there isn't already a thread with Kramer's buildings in it. What other ones are there? The Janion Building & Soda Water Factory are already mentioned, I think the ones across the lawn from the whale wall are also owned by her. What other buildings does she own?

Northern Junk Company.

#55 KublaKhan

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 09:53 AM

...and the lawyer is telling a half-truth: the interior of the Janion is indeed run down, but it appears to be structurally sound. The interior is, in fact, beautiful.

#56 UrbanRail

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 10:06 AM

An article from the TC yesterday.

City ponders fate of threatened historic buildings
Morley, Janion properties could face demolition, development
Carolyn Heiman, Times Colonist
Published: Saturday, March 15, 2008
The owners of two prominent historic buildings want to develop the properties, their lawyer said yesterday, adding fuel to growing concern by Victoria politicians, business representatives and heritage advocates that the downtown icons are under real threat.

"My clients would really like to do things with [the Janion building and Morley's Soda Factory sites]," David Houston said. "We want to do something that will complement the neighbourhood and revitalize it ... hopefully using some reclaimed materials."

Houston wasn't specific about what kind of development plans the owners have in mind, saying it would depend on how the city responds to their application to demolish the Janion, built in 1891, and the Morley, built in 1884. Both buildings have been empty for decades.

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The Janion building, shown here, and Morley's Soda Factory are targeted for demolition by their owners. The buildings were constructed in the 1880s and 1890s and have been vacant for decades.
Darren Stone, Times Colonist
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Font:****On Thursday, Victoria city council put a 60-day protection order on the properties owned by Sky Blue Properties, whose president is Clara Beatrice Kramer of Oak Bay. Her two daughters, who live in Beverly Hills, Calif., are also named as owners.

The order was made after the city received an application to demolish the properties, which are on a heritage registry but not protected with a formal heritage designation.

The move buys time for city staff to complete a report on what options are open to the city, but one recommendation will be to designate the properties as heritage sites without the permission of the owners.

Houston said his clients don't want to demolish the buildings. "The problem my clients face is that they would like to develop the properties, but the cost of doing so, and keeping the current facades in place -- you can't do it economically."

He said if the city designates the buildings as heritage without the owners' permission, the city would have to pay compensation. That money could be put toward repairing the buildings to make them conform to building codes.

Houston did not name a compensation figure, "but it would be significant" and potentially more than the assessed value of the properties.

According to B.C. Assessment, the Morley's Soda Factory property at 1315-1317 Waddington Alley has a 2008 assessed property value of $400,300, with the building assessed at $8,300 of that total. The waterfront Janion property at 1612-1614 Store St. is assessed at $1,191,300, with the former hotel on the site valued at $11,300.

The Morley's Soda Factory was originally the manufacturing plant for soda water, lemonade and a variety of syrups. The Janion started out as a hotel but later was used for a variety of uses including the business office for the E&N Railway and a storage facility.

Houston said the company applied to the City of Victoria for a demolition permit because "we have been in discussions with the city over the years, and things haven't worked out.

"The way things are going in the area, now is the time" to develop it, he said, noting that the relocation of the Streetlink emergency shelter away from Store Street signals the area is on the upswing.

Houston said his clients and the city are in agreement that the location of the Janion property is important, "but on the heritage issues I don't know. It is certainly an old building. We know that. Whether it is of heritage significance I don't know.

"We want to know what the city's intentions are. We need to know: Is it heritage or not?"

Ken Kelly, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, called the situation between the city and the property owners "a Mexican standoff."

Kelly said the association would be "on the front lines of advocating preservation of the buildings. They are too valuable to let slip to the ground. They have been anchors and touchstones to the downtown for more than a century."

As for the economics of revitalizing the buildings, Kelly said: "Who put them in that shape? Who has neglected them for all these years. I can't believe [he] would say something like that. ... We need people who have a vision, and that has every bit as much to do with our individual property owners as with the council."


> Heritage advocates and city officials dismayed, A3.

> In tomorrow's Times Colonist: The history of the Morley and Janion buildings.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008

#57 Caramia

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 11:27 AM

Are there any pictures of the interior out there that you know of Kubla Khan?

#58 amor de cosmos

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 12:59 PM

the Janion was a high-end hotel in its day, so the inside would probably look pretty nice if it were fixed up, unless of course it has been changed at all since it closed.

#59 amor de cosmos

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 01:07 PM

I'm no Howard Roark, but there has got to be a way to engineer around the structural problems of the buildings.

Someone like Howard Roark (if he were an actual person) would definitely be the WRONG person for this job.

#60 Rorschach


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Posted 16 March 2008 - 01:23 PM

Not even for the demolition job? Roark would never compromise with the pinheads running Victoria. For the uninitiated see:

The Fountainhead

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