AMHERST – Just as it’s doing with the former BMO building, Amherst is gathering input on any potential uses for the former Via train station.
While the town doesn’t own the historic train station, Mayor Robert Small said it has been contacted by Via Rail about taking possession of the building.
“The building is being made available to us by Via Rail and because of the heritage connection of the property they can only talk to municipalities at this time about its future use,” the mayor said. “We have looked at it and right now we don’t have a municipal use for the property.”
The mayor said there might be someone out there with a vision for the building that it could share with the town. Ideally, he said, the town would like to see the train station building remain an active part of the community, “but the fact of the matter is if we can’t find something it doesn’t make sense for us to pursue it.”
The train station has sat empty for more than a year after the Amherst Train Station Artisans Gallery was forced to vacate the building following a flood last winter. The gallery operated last summer in the curling club before moving to the Amherst Centre mall in the fall.
Via Rail closed the station in October 2012 following reductions to the Ocean Run.
The mayor, who talked about both the train station and BMO building to members of the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce during that organization’s meeting on Tuesday night, said it would cost a lot of money to fix up the train station because of the water damage caused when a pipe froze and broke.
“It would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix that building up,” the mayor said.
It’s not known what Via’s plans for the building would be if Amherst declines taking possession. The rail company still has computer equipment in the building and the company’s Ocean run still picks up and drops off passengers at the station – although the building is locked.
Meanwhile, the mayor said, the town is looking at another possible use for the Confederation Memorial Building on Ratchford Street. The building was town hall until those offices were moved to the former Dominion Public Building in late 2012.
“We’re looking at the possibility of setting up a building that will service and help small business,” the mayor said. “We hope to have service centre that could help people open up small businesses and provide other services.”
The mayor could not say much more on the project other than he’s working with both the provincial and federal governments.
The building could also house an auditorium-type facility to host large meetings or events of 100 to 150 people. He said events could include special training sessions.
“We’re down the road on this and federal funding is being pursued,” the mayor said.
The town had considered making the building the home of the police department that was relocated into temporary quarters following the downtown fire in August 2012. The town began the process prior to the fire, but a consultant recommended building a new facility as opposed to renovating the former town hall.