The Great Hall in Union Station

Union Station Re-modernization Approved

Union Station will finally get its long overdue remodel after years of talk. The 640 million dollar renovation is scheduled to take place over the next five years and is funded by city, provincial and federal governments. Go Transit has even chipped in 172 million, along with VIA Rail who put in 25 million to upgrade passenger lounges. The new station improvements come after approval from City Hall earlier this week - with an outstanding 35-1 result.

Although Torontonians will always remember Union Station's classic look, I think a change is long overdue. The station is in constant disrepair. Cracks in the walls cause wet floors on rainy/snowy days. It's a poor (and ugly) reflection of our city, especially to tourists from around the world.

The project will definitely meet some challenges - particularly in terms of incorporating the historic elements in with modern architecture. I don't think a wholesale Union revamp would meet the warmest reception amongst Torontionians. With no construction plan set in place just yet, it will be interesting to see how this entire plan plays out. Within two months, City Hall should have a solid idea of what the new Union Station will look like. Artist renderings will surely follow soon after.

Upgrades will include: expanded retail space, new concourses, office space, pedestrian tunnels to the PATH system, and a new atrium over the tracks. On Union's new image, Mayor David Miller states, "We want places that draw people, not just places people go to because they happen to be walking by." I haven't been agreeing much with Mayor Miller lately, but I must say these are undisputed words of wisdom. An estimated, 65 million people visit Union Station - twice the amount that see Pearson International each year. And we can always look to tourism to help our city.

I'm usually one to raise an eyebrow when I hear talks of remodeling projects on historic buildings. I can't help but wonder what the result will be. In 2007, Michael Lee-Chin's Crystal addition to the ROM faced much criticism from some Torontonians. And I'm sure there will be much controversy over this project at Union. But it's definitely a much-needed move. I just hope that Union becomes a beautiful clean and safe station, while keeping some of its "vintage vibe".

Image by Aramil Liadon

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