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Train station renovations still moving forward

The timeline for completion of renovations to Nanaimo's historic E&N train station was pushed back again, but the project is still chugging along.

Last fall, project stakeholders thought the station, which was badly damaged in a 2007 fire, would open for business in the spring, but mortgage negotiations for the second phase of renovations to the interior of the building took longer than expected, said Darren Moss, a director of Tectonica Management Inc. and the project's construction manager.

Then in the spring, lease negotiations did not run to schedule either, he added.

The major tenant will be an Irish restaurant, while VIA Rail will occupy a small portion of the building for passenger services.

"Everyone's still very much on side and it's still moving in the same direction, so that's the important part," said Moss, adding he expects the building will be open for business late next spring.

Work on the exterior – Phase 1 – began in May 2010.

The work included lifting the building about 1.8 metres, blasting and excavating underneath, putting in a partial basement, structural reframing, brick repair and installation of window frames.

Moss said he expects Phase 2 of the renovations – all the mechanical and electrical work and finishing the interior to the drywall stage – will start shortly.

Passenger service on the E&N Rail line was suspended last spring and the Island Corridor Foundation, the track's owner, continues to await federal funding for track upgrades.

But even if funding is not forthcoming and the service is not reinstated, Moss expects minimal impact to the train station project.

"[The restaurant's] business plan is based on Nanaimo patrons using the restaurant," he said, adding that a new tenant could be found for the small portion of the building that is slated to be for VIA Rail passengers.

The entire project is expected to cost about $2.4 million.

For the first phase, VIA Rail's insurance kicked in $869,000, the Young Professionals of Nanaimo raised $410,000 through a series of fundraising campaigns and the Downtown Nanaimo Partnership Society contributed $40,000.

The second phase will be funded by a mortgage with CIBC.

Trevor Ivens, co-owner of the Fox and Hounds on Milton Street, said the two parties are in the final stages of finalizing the lease agreement.

"We're 99.9 per cent there," he said.

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