City of Victoria looks to remove former E and N ticket office

Bidders sought for removal, re-use of Via Rail passenger train station

The City of Victoria is asking parties interested in acquiring the former E & N Railway station to submit their proposals for its relocation and reuse.

It’s not going to be an easy job for the winning proponent, however.

“This building is built on slab – it cannot be picked up and moved,” Coun. Pam Madoff said. “It’s likely to have to be deconstructed and rebuilt.”

The train station, located on the east side of the Johnson Street bridge, served passengers for the last time in April 2011, when VIA Rail stopped its Victoria-to-Courtenay run due to deteriorating track conditions. While the train is expected to run again in 2013, its new terminus will likely be the Vic West side of the harbour.

City staffer Peter Sparanese, newly appointed as principal to the Johnson Street bridge project, explained to council that proposals will be evaluated based on their cost to the city, as well as the “highest and best use” proposed.

The criteria left councillors with questions and a desire for more input.

“My gut feeling is given sensitivities around rail, heritage elements and other considerations, there could be value in sounding out council’s views,” said Coun. Ben Isitt.

He argued that council, rather than staff, should make the final decision.

City manager Gail Stephens, however, said a more appropriate council role would be giving input into more specific evaluation criteria.

In ranking the proposals, Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said local use of the train station should get more weight than other considerations.

Mayor Dean Fortin disagreed.

“If a guy on Salt Spring Island will do it for free, I’m more interested in that than I am interested in paying somebody a lot of money to keep it for (relocation within) Victoria.”

Once the request for proposals is officially made, it will be posted at www.victoria.ca.

rholmen@vicnews.com