Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Remai Ventures and Corporate Greed – Saskatoon StarPhoenix – November 22, 2006

Developer's role in demise of legion building ignored

The StarPhoenix

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Re: End of era for legion branch (SP, Nov. 11). As someone whose family members fought in both world wars and belonged to the Canadian Legion, I understand the importance of their sacrifice and the difficulty the branches face in trying to keep their halls open with a dwindling membership.

What I find appalling, though, is that amid the story's heartbreak, developer Remai Ventures barely gets a mention. It's role is treated as if it's a minor one, when in fact it's Remai that is having the historic building demolished for corporate greed. The demise of the legion building is another example of big developers showing little or no consideration for built heritage.

Where is the corporate social responsibility? The greenest building, after all, is the one that already exists. It's horrifying to think that the legion will end up as landfill.

Yes, the building needs work. Remai no doubt has the resources to get it done. It's in a more enviable position than the owners of the larger King George Hotel, which sits vacant and boarded up.

The legion is still in use, with much of its original brick work intact. Aside from a few bricked in windows, it looks remarkably well and close to what it did in 1929, when it opened. This could be such a positive story rather than one of corporate greed for land and profit at the expense of a community's irreplaceable history.

"Canadians only now are starting to understand how unique and lucky this generation is to have only second-hand memories about the true cost of their freedom," said an SP editorial that ran on the same day as the story.

With only three surviving veterans of the Great War left, the significance of our downtown legion building, which their comrades built, becomes greater.

Mary MacLeod

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2006

End of era for legion branch
Final Remembrance Day for members at facility built by Great War veterans

Pam Cradock
The StarPhoenix

Saturday, November 11, 2006

This afternoon, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 63 members will hold a Remembrance Day gathering at the south downtown building for the last time.

"It'll be a good time down there," said Terry England, a 45-year legion member, who served in the British Air Force in the Second World War.

England came to Saskatoon from England with her Canadian husband, Mark, more than 60 years ago.

She is currently president of the Saskatchewan War Brides Association.

Today's gathering will feature music from the North Saskatchewan Regiment and Saskatoon City Police bands, she said. Sing-a-longs are on the agenda, as well as storytelling and reminiscing.

"It just seems like everyone likes to visit with each other," she said. "It usually gets packed."

The ceremony will also be bittersweet. In January, the 77-year-old building at the corner of 19th Street and Second Avenue is scheduled for demolition by its owner, Remai Ventures Inc., to make way for new development.

Branch members voted in the fall of 2005 to sell the building to the development company. The branch was struggling to pay the building's utility bills, while repairs and renovations fell by the wayside due to budget constraints.

The aging building, which some groups consider historic, has one of the last horse hair dance floors in the province. It was built by veterans of the First World War.

Members have resigned themselves to moving to a new home. In August, the branch purchased the Pensioners and Pioneers Hall on Spadina Crescent.

"I've got mixed feelings. I love the old building," said John Gill, a legion member who served with the British Service in the Second World War. "It's going to be really hard on the veterans. They really hate the thought of leaving."

Gill has celebrated more than 30 Remembrance Days with the legion. When Gill and his wife immigrated to Canada in 1951, the legion was one of the first places they went to meet people. Many of his original friends are gone now, but there's still a few left, he said.

"They're dying off," he said.

The legion branch currently has about 300 members who served in either the army, navy or air force.

Although the move from the old building will be hard, England believes it's necessary.

"The old building needed a lot of work," she said. "(Today) will be sad in a way, but we've got to make way for the future."

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2006


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