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City of Port Alberni will add commercial kitchen to historic train station

Prospective tenant for the train station has not been named
The Port Alberni Train Station is located outside the entrance to Harbour Quay, on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)

Although the City of Port Alberni hasn’t named a tenant for its historic train station yet, council is moving forward with adding a commercial kitchen to the building.

Council voted during a regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 14 to proceed with exterior modifications to the train station that would enable a commercial kitchen on-site.

Council also directed city staff to work with the Alberni Valley Heritage Commission on design elements to conceal the kitchen’s required venting so that it doesn’t change the historical appearance of the building.

The Port Alberni Train Station was built in 1911 as part of the Esquimalt & Nanaimo (E&N) Railway service, with some modifications made in 1956 to add a warehouse and truck bays for freight delivery. The city acquired the building and property in 1989, which has now been designated a Municipal Heritage Site.

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Back in 2019, the city started the process of leasing out the train station, including seismic and renovation work to allow a tenant to occupy the building. The prospective tenant has not been named, as lease negotiations are ongoing, but city staff have indicated that the tenant is a food and beverage provider, which requires a commercial kitchen on site.

Mike Fox, city CAO, explained on Aug. 14 that the exterior of the building must be altered in order to add this kitchen equipment.

“We as staff feel if it was a restaurant or establishment that needed to have proper venting that we would have to modify the building envelope,” he said.

Council already approved $320,000 in this year’s budget for work on the train station.

However, Pam Craig of the Alberni Valley Heritage Commission told council that the commission feels these modifications would not be appropriate, because they would change the historical value of the building.

“That building is, on the outside exterior, a very beautiful, historic building representing a communication and a transportation hub, which is very familiar to all Canadians across the country,” said Craig. “Please consider what is going to happen to that building.”

Councillor Charles Mealey suggested putting some banner-style signs in a triangle shape on the roof to conceal the venting.

“I do support what the commission members say,” he said. “I think there may be a middle ground here.”

Architect Will King confirmed that the flat rooftop of the train station’s truck garage is a “carte blanche” that allows for many different options to conceal the venting.

Council approved the changes to the building, but also agreed to continue working with the heritage commission on potential design elements.

Mayor Sharie Minions said she feels the city’s train station is “drastically under-utilized” and the new kitchen equipment would be a trade-off to get people into the building and interacting with it.

“For me, one of the most important aspects of heritage is the ability for people to engage and interact with it,” she said.

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Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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