Disclaimer: Although I am the Vice-Chair of Toronto’s Union Station Revitalization Public Advisory Group, this article represents my own opinions, not necessarily those of USRPAG who have not had a chance to discuss this matter since the release of the report linked below.
On June 2, Toronto’s Executive Committee will consider a staff report recommending that the Union Station Revitalization project proceed at a total cost of $640-million. This project is dependent on funding approvals from Queen’s Park and Ottawa which are expected to materialize over the coming months.
As previously reported, GO Transit will take a strata sale interest in parts of the station they do not already own, specifically much of the West Wing office space to which they will relocate their offices from Bay & Queen’s Quay, as well as their new east and west concourses. GO will lease additional space in the station.
The East Wing, now occupied by the Bank of Nova Scotia, will be returned to public use on the first floor. The east door (the old Postal Station A entrance) will give a new public access to the building, and the office space on the first floor will be used during construction as a swing space for building tenants such as Via and GO whose operations in the Great Hall will be displaced during renovation. Eventually, this area will become available for commercial use.
Current plans call for the Via Panorama Lounge to relocate from the south end of the departures concourse to the West Wing, probably in the old York Pioneer Room space north of the waiting room. Other space on the first floor of the West Wing will be reserved for the Air Rail Link’s waiting area, and that service (presuming it actually starts operating some day) will run from Track 1 (Platform 3) with direct access from the West Wing.
Negotiations are in progress for a Head Lessee for all of the commercial space in the revamped station, but the name of the successful proponent for this lease remains confidential pending confirmation of the entire project.
Several projects will run concurrently in the Union Station area:
- The station revitalization and “dig down” to create new, bilevel concourse space.
- The North-West PATH tunnel construction linking the West Wing to the Royal York Hotel, other buildings on York Street and the western portion of the existing PATH network at Wellington Street.
- The TTC’s Union Station second platform project for the subway station, and possible changes to Union Station Loop to accommodate the Waterfront East LRT line.
- GO Transit’s reconstruction of the train shed and insertion of the glass atrium in the portion of the shed directly south of the Great Hall.
- Planned reconfiguration of Front Street to alter the pedestrian/auto balance.
Union Station is nearly 90 years old and many of its structures and systems reflect building technology of its day. Many of these systems, notably heating and cooling, will be updated, and with the use of district facilities such as deep water cooling from Lake Ontario, there will be large energy savings in the building’s operation.
The detailed budget for the project is shown in Attachment 2 of the report at Page 14. Note that a considerable amount is already spent or planned up to the end of 2009, and this has covered building restoration/repair that was required regardless of the status of the revitalization project. Large, visible items included the repair of the west window in the Great Hall, the skylight over the waiting room, and the reconstruction of the bridge over the Front Street “moat” now in progress.
The report includes floor plans showing the new layout of the upper and lower levels of the station as well as the current and future access points that will be provided at track level. These are more recent than versions on the City’s Union Station site as the design has been fine-tuned over the past months in response to, among other things, pedestrian flow models that showed problems with the original design. To the greatest degree possible, multiple pathways exist between various parts of the building, and from the building (especially the GO concourses) to the surrounding streets. These are required to handle a projected doubling of passenger demand at Union over the next two decades.
The main reconstruction activity will likely begin with the west concourses. This space is now used for a few GO train platforms and a car rental operation (to be removed from the station). The space will be reconstructed to provide a new loading area at the southwest corner of the complex, as well as the new west GO and shopping levels. This must be completed first to allow GO’s operations to switch from the existing east concourse to the west side of the station.
Once GO is out of their existing space, the east concourse can be rebuilt into its new two level arrangement. This work will include lowering the moat between the bridge to the Postal Station entrance (east end) and the main bridge (now under reconstruction) to the Great Hall. This new level will permit direct access with no change in grade from the mezzanine of Union Subway Station to the lower level of the East Wing. TTC’s plans for their station involve reconfiguring the fare control area into a central island (as opposed to the split east and west control areas at present), and providing a better flow to the PATH system north of the station.
The entire project is expected to be complete by 2015. Because of its complexity, a head contract manager will be retained by the City to oversee and co-ordinate the work. Although there is a preliminary staging plan, this changes in response to emerging details in the project, and in light of modelling exercises both for pedestrian flow and construction activities in each stage.