Grand Trunk Railways Locomotive Repair Shops

RAILWAY LEGACY OR LOOMING LANDFILL?

This massive industrial structure may be sent to landfill despite creative suggestions for adaptive use.

Why it matters

Built in 1909, Stratford, Ontario’s GTR (later CNR) locomotive repair shops building is a massive steel and concrete facility that is an exceptional example of its kind in Canada. A prominent structure adjacent to Stratford’s downtown, the vacant two-storey building covers close to five of the original 11.4 acres of railway lands, acquired by the City in 2009. An extraordinary industrial site and an important cultural heritage asset, it offers a range of development opportunities. And at close to 16,800 sq m (182,000 sq ft) it would be an environmental travesty to send it all to landfill.

A 2012 city-commissioned study by Goldsmith Borgal & Company Ltd. Architects concluded that the site meets the criteria for determining Cultural Merit and is worthy of preservation. The Grand Trunk Railway Site Heritage Committee (a subcommittee of the Stratford Perth Heritage Foundation) is moving ahead with a recommendation to designate parts of the building under the Ontario Heritage Act.

In February 2014, the City’s Finance and Labour Relations Committee (FLRC) heard a number of presentations, which included revenue-generating uses that would see at least part of the building retained and reused. Creative options for reuse included a steam locomotive museum, ground or multi-storey parking; bus terminal; library or YMCA expansion; sports facility; and university campus expansion (a University of Waterloo satellite campus has been built on part of the railway lands).

Why it’s endangered

Although structurally sound, the building appears dilapidated due to the loss of window glass and the deteriorated condition of the more recently added sheet steel cladding.

A report dated October 2013, commissioned by the city to assess options for the future of the site, concluded that demolition and commemoration—rather than adaptive reuse or partial retention—should form the basis of future consideration by city council.

Where things stand

In May 2014, the FLRC stated that city staff would consider additional public proposals, with or without the building being retained.

City council has deferred a decision on demolition until after a Master Plan for the city’s facilities has been completed.

News Alert 2015The National Trust wrote a letter to the Mayor of Stratford on April 28 urging council to develop an RFP process for the redevelopment of the site before making any decisions on its demolition, partial or otherwise.

Update: The city of Stratford released a master plan in 2018 that explored possible ideas for the site as a cultural and community centre. The plan intends to both preserve the property’s heritage value as home to a former Grand Trunk Railway repair shop while complementing the role, character and identity of Stratford’s downtown core.

As of 2021 the site remains vacant with no action plan fully in place.

 

Location: Stratford, Ontario

Top 10 Endangered Places List: 2014

Status: Endangered

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