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City to monitor CPR station’s status

A train comes into the CPR station in New Westminster in the early years of the 20th century. Its heritage value makes it of significant importance to the city. - Courtesy New Westminster Museum and Archives/IHP7857
A train comes into the CPR station in New Westminster in the early years of the 20th century. Its heritage value makes it of significant importance to the city.
— image credit: Courtesy New Westminster Museum and Archives/IHP7857

The city is “absolutely” concerned about the future of the historic CPR station that has been the site of a Keg Restaurant for 40 years, says the chair of New Westminster’s heritage commission.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said although the city can’t force renovations to be made it can have the conversation about what should be done in the future.

In the early 1970s, The Keg Restaurants turned the old train station on Columbia and Eighth streets, next to Hyack Square, into one of its first locations. But the chain closed the restaurant last month to conduct structural assessments.

The station is listed on the local, provincial and national heritage registers. It was built in 1899 to replace the previous wooden structure destroyed in the Great Fire of 1898, and was designed by Edward Maxwell, who did many designs for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

New Westminster heritage planner Julie Schueck said it has significant heritage value not only because of its connection with the railway and Canada, but also as the place where many of the area’s troops began their journey to the various theatres of the Second World War.

“The Hyack Square area has been the place where a lot of last goodbyes were said,” said Schueck. “We’re always concerned when a heritage building is left to deteriorate on its own. Hopefully that wouldn’t happen … It’s definitely an iconic building.”

The station is owned by Westminster Station Brewing Co., which signed a 15-year lease with The Keg in 2002. Co-owner Brock Rodgers said for the first 10 years of that lease the restaurant paid a below-market rate, but was responsible for its maintenance and renovation, before the rent went up for the final five years. A structural engineer hired by Westminster Station found several problems hadn’t been dealt with. A Keg spokeswoman said last week the situation was still being assessed in order to develop an operations plan.

“There’s no immediate action to be taken, this is a dispute between a tenant and a landlord, but we are monitoring the situation as a city. If the future comes in doubt, we would look at what powers we could use,” said McEvoy.

He and Schueck are concerned once older heritage buildings turn out the lights problems such as mould and water causes structures to deteriorate.

“Any building requires regular maintenance. I have no idea the extent this building has been maintained. It can be frustrating from a heritage planner’s point of view when it hasn’t been maintained,” said Schueck. “We want to make sure any work that requires a building permit gets a permit.”

If The Keg decided to abandon the location entirely, Schueck said the city would work with the owner to find a new use for the iconic building, which stands alone with the renovated B.C. Electric streetcar building (home to a Salvation Army thrift store) across Hyack Square.

“It’s in a lovely juxtaposition with the BCE building. They speak to each other very nicely. They’re both transportation buildings that made an impact on the city,” said Schueck.

McEvoy said the building is a good candidate for future private uses.

“It’s a valuable spot because it’s going to be kitty corner to a civic centre soon. So as a location for a restaurant or office that attraction will be enhanced,” said McEvoy.

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