I was looking through some of my old photos and I came across this one I took at Union Station in Toronto several years ago. It got me to thinking about the past and the future of this civic monument.
Union Station is one of the few landmarks in Toronto that are over eighty years old and still being used for their original purpose. As a city that only became the biggest in the country just over thirty years ago, we don’t have a lot of structures like this. One would think we would take care of the ones we do have, but for a long time this wasn’t the case with Union Station.
It’s needed a major overhaul for several decades now: the stonework on the exterior has become stained with watermarks and deposits from the copper roof, the VIA and GO train shed is decrepit, even the “new” additions such as the subway station and GO concourse in the lower levels are showing their age. While no one ever seriously thought about demolishing it like Penn Station, it’s clear from its current state that it was left to neglect for far too long.
Things have been changing recently, and this year should see the beginning so of a massive transformation. Some early phases of a $640 million dollar restoration and expansion have already been completed, and the more visible work is set to begin this year.
GO Transit is currently renovating the office space in the building in order to move their headquarters to Union Station and the reconstruction of Front Street has started. Soon work will begin on excavating the GO concourse and adding a lower level for more retail space which is badly needed (those of us who use the station are quite sick of having to choose between hot dogs and burgers).
But the highlight of the project will be the new central atrium in the middle of the current train platforms. The glass roof will be fifty feet high and will go a long way to allowing natural light into what is now a dark and dank shed.
Two-thirds of the old train shed will be restored and will support an extensive green roof. Currently the roof looks decrepit and is quite an eyesore to everyone who lives and works in the surrounding buildings, so this is a big improvement.
It’s good to know that Union Station is going to be an even bigger transportation hub in Toronto’s future.