Co-written by Giovanni Paquin and Andrew Matheson
FREDERICTON – Reconstruction has finally begun on Fredericton’s beloved yet long-neglected York Street Railway Station. The future of the dilapidated landmark has been the subject of much discussion in this city for years. The potential reuse of this site understandably spurred the imagination of many Frederictonians. Its heritage status, unique architecture and central location led to numerous proposals from the community over the years, including a new home for the local Royal Canadian Legion branch and a train museum.
Train service to Fredericton ended in 1962 and in 1995 all CP rail lines to the city were ripped up. While the torn up rail lines have been transformed into one of the nation’s most extensive public trails networks (which we foresee discussing in more detail in future contributions), the same cannot be said for the trackless station, which was abandoned and has languished for more than a decade.
A little over two months ago, plans were first announced that the train station would be saved and be converted into a new central flagship location for New Brunswick Liquor (NB Liquor). For the most part, the announcement was met with a positive response from the community, if for no reason beyond the fact that it was the best way to save the station from falling down altogether. While there are definite concerns about the conversion of a public landmark into a liquor store, the optimists in Fredericton can’t help but have visions of Toronto’s Summerhill LCBO store dance in his or her head – a beautifully-restored station surrounded by a public plaza, fountains and space for a summer café (or even Montreal’s Société des alcools (SAQ) store in the Jean-Talon train station for that matter).
The more pessimistic among us, perhaps discouraged by the disappointing initial artist’s rendering of the future site, can’t help but have fears of the station being arbitrarily slapped on the front of a one-storey big box-like structure surrounded by parking. Here’s hoping that the optimists’ vision wins!
photos by Giovanni Paquin