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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Commercial rehabilitation within the central business district : policies for future use Wood, Sandra Eileen

Abstract

Within the central business districts of many North American cities are to be found blighted commercial areas which have deteriorated through the process of time, market changes, and locational obsolescence. Old buildings, some beautiful, are left to deteriorate or are torn down and replaced by characterless new facades in an attempt to compete with the integrated 'shopping center' approach. Such changes do not make a city. In recent years a number of cities have utilized rehabilitation techniques in an attempt to revitalize blighted commercial areas. Rehabilitation may be broadly defined as remodeling, altering, repairing and otherwise improving substandard, deteriorated, or obsolete areas, or individual structures within these areas so that a decent, safe, and sanitary environment may be achieved. In the case of commercial rehabilitation there is often more emphasis put on the aesthetic aspects of improvement than in residential rehabilitation. Commercial enterprises, for the purpose of this discussion, may refer to places of entertainment, restaurants, or offices, but refer particularly to retail outlets. It is the basic aim of the thesis to examine the subject of commercial rehabilitation in detail in order to determine its progress and its problems, particularly under present legislative provisions. Policies are then proposed to enable successful future use of rehabilitation in Canadian cities. On the assumption that revitalization of blighted commercial areas of the central business districts of Canadian and American cities is a desirable objective, as a basis for investigation it is hypothesized that in order to achieve a comprehensive program of central business district renewal utilizing rehabilitation measures, it is essential that there be coordinated participation of Federal and local governments at the advisory, administrative, and financial levels in conjunction with the efforts of private enterprise. Study is carried out in three major ways. First, an extensive literature review is used to determine the main physical, social, economic, and legislative aspects of commercial rehabilitation. Second, response from questionnaires sent to Canadian and American cities having central business district rehabilitation projects within a government-sponsored "urban renewal scheme" are tabulated to show the meaning attached to commercial rehabilitation by the involved authorities; the extent of rehabilitation projects in execution or planned; the source of inspiration for these projects; and problems encountered. The hypothesis is examined specifically through the use of a case-study of the City of Victoria, British Columbia. Through a rather special combination of civic and local business concern coupled with an important tourist industry and a heritage of historic buildings, Victoria has been the subject of considerable rehabilitation effort. The most significant limitation of the case-study is that Victoria's central business district does not exhibit the extreme and far-reaching conditions of blight which are found in many cities. Throughout the thesis emphasis is placed on the role of local and federal governments in relation to that of private enterprise. From information collected in the manner previously described policies for utilization by Canadian cities are proposed. Briefly they recommend that commercial rehabilitation be mainly a local rather than federal government responsibility; that the local government operate mainly in an advisory and administrative rather than financial capacity; that private enterprise efforts be encouraged wherever possible; and that rehabilitation be carried out on a comprehensive scale. It is felt that the financial role played by local and federal governments should be most active in the provision of services and public works. Where rehabilitation proves impossible through private investment sources and yet is considered to be of genuine benefit to the community, recourse may be made to Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation for "urban renewal schemes” or to the Industrial Development Bank of Canada for other areas. Subject to the limitation placed on the financial role of government in commercial rehabilitation, the hypothesis is considered valid.

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