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Reno work on closed restaurant bodes well for historic building
Most people would cringe at the site of workers tearing material from the roof of a beloved building, or scrambling along its facade chipping and troweling at cracks and fissures.
Julie Schueck couldn't be more delighted.
The City of New Westminster's heritage planner said workers laying a new roof on the former CPR railway station on Columbia Street at Eighth, repairing window frames and repointing the brickwork are encouraging signs that the historic building will spring back to life. It had been occupied by The Keg restaurant since 1973, but it closed and laid off all its staff in early January.
A spokeswoman for The Keg said at the time that the restaurant's closure was necessary so it could assess the extent of repair and renovation work that would be needed at the structure, which was built in 1899.
After months of inactivity, except for the removal of the restaurant's signage, work crews are climbing around the outside. And inside.
Schueck said renovation work that requires a permit on buildings listed on the city's heritage register, like the CPR station, must be reviewed to ensure the building's historic integrity isn't compromised before it can proceed. But the current work being done on the station's distinctive bricks and sloped roof doesn't need a permit. The contractor has applied for a building permit for the interior though, to construct a new kitchen.
That's good news to Ken Brookes and his business partner Brock Rodgers, who own the building. The lease they negotiated with The Keg in 2002 made the restaurant responsible for repairs and maintenance of the building in return for a below-market rate. But those repairs were never done and the restaurant closed just months after a higher pre-negotiated rate took effect for the remaining five years of the lease.
"They seem to be attacking the deferred maintenance work on the building," said Brookes. "It's taken a while. We're most pleased that they're looking after the building."
Brookes said he hasn't been advised what The Keg's ultimate plans are for the building. Although the installation of a new kitchen implies it will reopen as a restaurant, possibly subleased from The Keg.
Nobody from The Keg was available for comment.
Schueck said she's keen to see the building occupied again.
"One of the biggest threats to heritage is demolition by neglect," said Schueck of the old station, which the New Westminster Historical Preservation Society designated as the city's most endangered heritage building.
It's location at Hyack Square makes it especially iconic.
"It's a very important building for New West," said Schueck. "It's an interesting little area with the old BC Electric and the Mc & Mc buildings, they all kind of speak to each other."
And with the new Anvil Centre rising on the corner opposite the station, Schueck said the area gives a "sense of the past and future of New West in one intersection."
It looks like that future will once again include a restaurant.