The former E&N Train Station is located at Argyle Street and Harbour Road. NEWS FILE PHOTO

City of Port Alberni ponders future of uptown train station

Developer interest in heritage building prompts discussion on uptown revitalization

A committee of the whole meeting about the future of Port Alberni’s train station on Monday, July 15 turned into a larger discussion about the revitalization of Uptown Port Alberni and the waterfront.

Seismically, the city-owned, heritage-designated train station is in need of “robust” upgrades to meet modern codes, architect Will King told city council. There is also an issue of a leaking roof and poor insulation, as well as a heating system that needs to be upgraded. The building’s heritage status, he added, makes this difficult.

King suggested a “rehabilitation” of the train station—making contemporary use of a place while still protecting its historic value. The surrounding area also needs to be rehabilitated in order to make this sustainable. He drew comparisons to other industrial waterfront areas, such as Granville Island in Vancouver, the Duncan Garage and even Pike Place in Seattle, and suggested that Port Alberni can offer the same type of attraction in the Harbour Quay area.

“Great industrial infrastructure…can bring vibrancy that will attract people from all over the world,” he explained.

He offered a few suggestions, from a rooftop patio over the truck garage to blocking off traffic on part of Argyle Street to create a pedestrian focused area.

Members of council all agreed on Monday that doing nothing isn’t an option.

“It’s not just a train station, it’s the linchpin,” said Councillor Ron Paulson on Monday. “If we don’t take care of it, we’re in danger of losing it.”

A number of Port Alberni residents stepped forward to speak on Monday. Chris Washington, the owner of Flandangles and the chair of the Uptown Merchants Association, said she was excited about the concept. “I’ve seen this type of development all over the world,” she said. “It’s awesome what this does for communities.”

Washington has brought similar concepts to council in the past, advocating for improvements to Port Alberni’s Uptown with things like lighting, washrooms and pedestrian-friendly streets.

READ: Port Alberni merchants advocate for improvements to business district

Some people offered suggestions. Nancy Blair, a member of the Community Arts Council in Port Alberni, proposed an “arts hub” for the train station. “[It] would bring life into this historic venue,” she described. “We’d like the chance to be considered.”

Aaron Colyn, the owner of Twin City Brewing, said that he has been looking for a location to expand his business, and has been keeping an eye on the train station. His vision, he said, is to preserve and celebrate the fact that the building was formerly a bustling train station. “We are looking for more space,” he said. “There are more people than we have seats for.”

Other speakers emphasized the importance of retaining the building as a train station. Council agreed in February to put a temporary halt to railway operations in 2019 due to budget concerns. However, both the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society and the McLean Mill Society continue to hold conversations with city staff about running the trains in 2020 and repairing the No. 7 “Baldwin” steam locomotive. McLean Mill Society president Sheena Falconer said on Monday that the society is working to make sure the trains can return next year, and wants to see the link maintained.

“We’re open to other organizations being in there,” she added. “But it is a pretty key component for the trains.”

In another interview, City CAO Tim Pley said a potential redevelopment of the train station wouldn’t necessarily affect future operation of the trains.

“There’s no reason why it would affect operation of the trains,” he said. “The deck and the rails for the train would remain in place. There’s no plan to remove those.”

Although the train station and train have a “natural synergy,” he said, they are not connected.

Because Monday’s meeting was a committee of the whole meeting, no decisions were made. The topic will be brought to a future meeting of council.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Talks continue over new aquatic centre for Alberni Valley

Joint ACRD, City of Port Alberni committee asks for staff report on next steps

BCHL: Bulldogs’ win streak snapped by Powell River Kings

Josh Zary had the lone goal for Port Alberni

Alberni vet heading to Africa with Veterinarians Without Borders

Dr. Roberta Templeton and her vet husband will help dairy farmers in Uganda

B.C.-born hockey official talks to IIHF about switching European rule book to NHL rules

Rob Shick will represent NHL at 4th World Hockey Forum in Russia

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Sail Past lights up Alberni Inlet

Annual Sail Past took place at Harbour Quay

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Feds not enforcing standards on Hungarian duck imports, B.C. farmer says

‘You have no way of knowing what’s in the bag’

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Vancouver Island blues musician’s mother’s home burglarized and ransacked

David Gogo’s 71-year-old mother has jewelry and artwork stolen in break-in

Most Read