A 109-year old abandoned train station that hasn’t been in use in over two decades could become a new tech hub and coworking space in Westmount.
According to the Westmount Examiner, a call for proposals appears to be in the works for use of the abandoned Westmount train station at Victoria and St. Catherine, Wesmount’s mayor Peter Trent recently confirmed.
Westmount city councillor Phillip Cutler, who also doubles as the founder of local startup GradeSlam, made a presentation to the general committee of the council in November and December to turn the train station into a tech hub for startup technology. After speaking with project coordinators at Notman House, which itself was repurposed from an old hospice to a tech hub, Cutler estimated the cost of renovations would cost $1.5 to $2 million.
“It’s a beautiful space,” Cutler told MTLinTech. “It would be a great space for a very niche incubation, like medtech. It’s about 2,000 sq. ft., so it’s not a massive facility, but it’s big enough to house about five to eight startups and really become a type of headquarters for tech initiatives.”
Cutler sees many similarities between historic Notman House on Sherbrooke street and the old train station. As a regular participant in the tech community, he wants to see something similar done with Westmount’s space. The only things city council says it doesn’t want is for the space to be turned into restaurants or retail sites, given the residential nature of the area.
Westmount doesn’t have a large, recognizable coworking space, unlike many of the other downtown neighbourhoods of Montreal. But Cutler said city council has long shown itself to be conducive towards tech-related initiatives.
“Even the Mayor, who doesn’t have a Twitter account, knows how valuable this type of stuff is and has been super supportive of these things.”
Whatever is does become, it appears Cutler was trying to get ideas thrown around. His was a positive start.
“This is one idea,” he told the Independent. “Council was on side and open to proposals. It’s a way to stir the pot and try to see what ideas are out there.”
Elaborating on that, Cutler told MTLinTech that the real intention is to get something in the building, which is flanked by beautiful green space in a quiet part of St. Catherine street west.
“Personally, I’d love to see a tech hub. The reality is the space has been vacant and left abandoned for 20-something years. Getting anyting in there would be a huge plus, but I think it lends itself really well to a tech hub.”
As per the Independent, “Once a thriving transportation hub, the train station was replaced by the Vendome station in 1984. The city took over ownership following lengthy negotiations with CP Rail concluded in 1999.
Under the agreement with CP, the city would preserve the deteriorating 1907 station and purchase the 25,000 square feet of land on which it stands plus the area in front, now a small park.
Also in 1999, to mark Westmount’s 125th anniversary, the city committed $125,000 from its capital works budget toward a fundraising campaign of $850,000 by the Westmount Historical Association (WHA). The goal was to restore the station as a heritage centre for the organization, though this use never materialized.
Over the year, numerous uses for the station have been suggested. These included a cafe, headquarters for the WHA, a Victoria villiage branch of the Westmount Public Library and even a summer market.”