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.

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