Moving ahead in Harbour Grace
Harvard students talk cultural and economic growth
After nearly a week touring outport communities in Newfoundland, 14 Harvard architecture and urban design masters students returned to the United States with a greater understanding of Newfoundland heritage and culture.
The trip was for a project called Outports in Transition, where the students learned about different communities in this province and the unique architecture not often found elsewhere. They visited Harbour Grace, Port Union and Twillingate.
Sofia Battersea, Maria Carriers, Casey Massaro and Annabelle Ren were part of the group that stayed in Harbour Grace.
During an open forum last week with the four Harbour Grace-based students, a dozen residents from the local area chatted with them at the Splash Centre about what they’d like to see in the community, as well as how they’d like to see it grow.
Plans for Harbour Grace
The students were very impressed by the province, but especially Harbour Grace.
“Harbour Grace is in a better position than some of the other communities around because you do have businesses looking to invest,” Battersea said.
With Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises looking to expand and a marine industrial park in the planning stages, others have shown interest in investing in the town, according to economic development officer Erika Pardy.
But the main concern mentioned by local residents was that Harbour Grace appeared to be standing still and not moving forward.
“I have a concern that we spend too much time looking back,” said Bob Lynch. “And opportunities have not come our way as a community, or they’ve gone left or right of us (to Carbonear or Bay Roberts). We’re off the beaten path already.”
But the Harvard students spoke of the need to enhance heritage in tandem with the economy and develop a plan for growth that recognizes the importance of preserving culture.
“We really want to balance the two,” said Carriers. “We’ve learned a lot about the extremely rich heritage that is here. We think it’s extremely exciting that it’s here and we want to celebrate it as much as possible. But we do not want to freeze Harbour Grace in time.”
Those in attendance confirmed they are excited to see what comes out of the Harvard visit, and look forward to advancing tourism, the economy and the culture of their hometown.
“I think it’s a really good thing that you guys care about the heritage here,” Ren said. “Because that’s what the community has. I think, you shouldn’t put too much focus (since) that’s not the only thing the community can use in developing ( for) the future.”
Other ideas include a meeting place or building for coffee houses and a plan to keep historic properties relevant by repurposing them.
The students will compile their individual ideas for their final term projects and then present them over Skype to the towns and other parties.
Thoughts on NL
Although they had researched Newfoundland before arriving Oct. 10, the visitors were not prepared for what they experienced.
“What we’ve been seeing before we came here is a lot of distant images what this place is like,” said Carriers.
Each of them has an interest in rural areas, but Harbour Grace had a particular calling to each of them. And they were happy to be a part of the project. But there were some things they experienced that were culture shock as well.
“We were treated with a wonderful Thanksgiving (dinner) when we got here,” Battersea explained. “That kind of culture shocked us, because it was the wrong month.” The residents laughed. Although the program is called Outports in Transition, none of the locals classified Harbour Grace as an outport community. That was something the students didn’t expect.
“We didn’t understand that outport wasn’t a term used,” Battersea noted. “The way I’ve understood it so far is not St. John’s.” The residents laughed again. Plenty of thoughts reached the surface during the meeting, and everyone agreed it was winwin situation.
“It’s really a whole different experience to get to come here and not just see the picture of the building on the heritage website with the little description, but to do a walk through with a local resident who’s (involved),” said Massaro.
And that personal experience has led to a lot of positivity for the students.
“Basically everything we thought we knew has changed, which is what we needed,” said Carriers. “We needed to understand this from the local perspective.”
Casey Massaro (left), Annabelle Ren (second from left), Maria Carriers (second from right) and Sofia Battersea are Harvard School of Architectural Design students that visited Harbour Grace for a week for a project called Outports in Transition.