The man largely responsible for Nelson’s heritage revitalization in the 1980s doesn’t like Nelson’s proposed streetlight design.
“The city’s current trend toward nibbling away at the essence of some of the key elements of [the revitalization] is very troubling in my mind,” Bob Inwood told the Star in an email, “as the unique features that define the character of the community’s heritage are replaced with bland, generic hardware.”
He told council at its Monday meeting that the current streetlights were custom-made in the 1980s based on lights that were in place until the 1950s.
Last year Nelson council decided it needed to replace the streetlamps because the bases were corroding, the moulds to create copies were not available, and creating new moulds would be too expensive.
So earlier this year council decided to buy new generic lamp standards. It proposed several designs to the public, a majority of whom voted on one style that council eventually chose (see photo).
Inwood said he thinks council and staff did not dig deeply enough to find out whether the current lamp standards could be repaired or re-manufactured.
“I have spoken with the original suppliers of the Nelson light standards (E.B. Horsman), and they indicated that a retro-fit to LED lighting would be totally possible,” he said. He added that the company told him the lamp standards could be structurally repaired.
City manager Kevin Cormack, in an interview following the council meeting, disagreed.
“I am confident that our staff went out and tried to find [the moulds for the lamp standards],” he said. “We understand the company that originally did that mould … has changed hands and been purchased by a larger company and as they went through that process this product apparently was not important to them and the mould is gone.”
He said city staff had tested the metal in all the lamp standards and found that the bases were failing.
Inwood said he has concerns about “how the city seems to be somewhat disrespecting the effort and investment previously made by the Nelson business community to achieve a cohesive marketing image — a strategy that has been very successful.”
Inwood said people are initially drawn to Nelson because of “its historic ambiance and the beauty of the natural surroundings, and that historic ambiance is slowly being chipped away at, largely by people who have little background knowledge of the process that made the city what it is today.”
He cited the recent re-design of Hall Street as an example.
At the council meeting, Inwood presented a detailed Powerpoint slideshow with a history of the 1980s revitalization.
During the postwar years, many downtown building owners covered up their buildings with stucco, steel cladding, and other materials in an attempt to look modern.
Inwood presented a number of before-and-after slides of downtown buildings when the heritage architecture was uncovered and restored.
“Between 1980 and 1985, more than 70 heritage buildings were restored in Nelson’s downtown under Bob’s guidance, and Nelson would not be the remarkable city it is today without his talent, cultural insights and knowledge of Nelson’s architectural history,” Nelson’s cultural development officer Joy Barrett said when presenting the award.