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Union Station revamp now pegged at $388M

Cost estimates revised after need for additional repairs came to light

Nov 22, 2007 04:30 AM
Paul Moloney
city hall bureau

The cost of revamping Union Station has soared because the transportation hub needs more repairs than originally thought, but Mayor David Miller says pension funds are keen to invest.

Under a deal that fell through last year, a private consortium had proposed to put up as much as $150 million for the project, but a new city report says the station needs $388.3 million in work.

Miller expressed confidence a financial partner will step forward to cover the cost of building a retail mall in the bowels of the building. “Based on preliminary discussions with the pension funds, there is very significant interest,” Miller told reporters this week.

Original estimates suggested the station needed about $20 million in basic repairs, but the real figure to cover the repair backlog and make heritage improvements turns out to be about $180 million.

“That’s because CN and CP underinvested in the station for all those years that they owned it,” said Jodie Parmar, the city’s director of business and strategic innovation.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said Union Station should be fixed, but until financing is lined up, it means little.”What the city needs is a practical plan that has a funding source,” he said.

Under the latest plan, the budget for the retail component has grown to $137 million. (The balance of the projected costs will go toward transportation upgrades.)

While some wonder about the need to incorporate a mall, Miller said it’s the only way to make the project viable. “It makes the station an interesting place to go on its own, and it provides a continuous, permanent source of revenue to support the ongoing work and operations,” he said.

The investor would be rewarded with a lease of up to 50 years.

The federal government has pledged $25 million toward rehabilitating the station, and the city is looking to Ottawa to significantly increase that contribution.

Parmar is seeking city council’s authorization to negotiate with the federal and provincial governments and GO Transit, which owns the track area. If council fast-tracks the process, the city may be able to conclude deals with funding partners by next September, he said.