Port Alberni city council will be discussing the future of the city-owned train station during a committee of the whole meeting on Monday, July 15.
The former E&N Train station, located at Argyle Street and Harbour Road, was built in 1911-12. The city purchased it and, in 1990, the building was restored by volunteers from the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society (WVIIHS). Parts of it are used as a museum to display the history of the railway, while the WVIIHS uses the upstairs as a meeting space.
In 2017, the city leased the train station to the McLean Mill Society (MMS), but the society was unsuccessful in attempts to sublet the station.
According to a report from CAO Tim Pley, the city received two high quality expressions of interest in redeveloping the train station in 2018, partly through the efforts of the MMS. But before any redevelopment can be considered, some preliminary work has to be done, including an assessment of potential contaminants, a structural engineering review, an energy needs assessment and architectural considerations.
At a special meeting in September 2018, council agreed for a consultant to be retained to undertake this work.
Architect Will King will be in attendance on Monday to provide insight into what it might take to update the train station and make it suitable for new occupancies.
According to Pley, a potential redevelopment of the train station wouldn’t necessarily affect the 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 the train have a “natural synergy,” he explained, the two are not connected.
Council agreed in February to put a temporary halt to railway operations in 2019 due to budget concerns. However, the Western Vancouver Industrial Heritage Society (WVIIHS) continues to hold conversations with city staff about running the trains in 2020. The WVIIHS also continues to work on repairing the No. 7 “Baldwin” steam locomotive, said Pley.
Public input and comments will be welcome on Monday. The COTW meeting takes place at 4 p.m. in council chambers.