A question that has been hovering in the air ever since the City of Port Alberni began looking into the condition of the Port Alberni Train Station is whether the heritage building is worth saving.
We say yes it is.
When Holland America’s MV Maasdam cruise ship stopped in three times this summer, people from the cruise ship gravitated toward the train station. Some were disappointed there were no trains running, but others raved about the antique truck display that was open at the back of the building, or the model train set that could be seen inside.
The train station is well positioned to be a tourism focal point on Port Alberni’s waterfront. It is central to Harbour Quay, shops at Kingsway Crossing and could be an entry to shopping and culture up Argyle Street to Third Avenue, and further to the Rotary Arts District. The heritage station is a natural connection between the quay and Tyee Landing, should that area ever be fully developed.
There are two issues at play: with the temporary halting of the steam and diesel trains in 2019, residents are worried there will be no more trains. News that the city is searching for solutions on what to do with the train station has fueled that uncertainty.
There is no reason the train station cannot be updated for multiple uses. The train station in Nanaimo was remade into a pub and despite a fire and change of ownership, it thrives.
Port Alberni’s train station is a focal point in a high tourist area, yet it is under utilized. If the trains run again next year, it can still be used for ticket sales. A refurbishment could create display areas for the Alberni Valley Museum or Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society to create exhibits, much like the Comox Valley Airport has done with glass display cases of Air Force memorabilia.
In the meantime, wouldn’t a coffee bar, craft brewery, art gallery, retail space, etc., be a great addition?
The city will put out a request for proposals to see if it can attract a developer or operator for the train station. We hope someone with vision steps up; it would be a shame to see this building shuttered.
— Alberni Valley News