The dilapidated and historic Banff train station is about to get a multi-million dollar facelift.
After two years of negotiations, Banff Caribou Properties secured a long-term lease for the property at the west end of town on March 1 and plans a major re-development of the station and parking lot.
Company officials say the project will have a railway heritage theme, with hopes of incorporating an old steam engine and rail cars into the landscape plan and perhaps recreating a water tower.
“Our plan is to bring it back to its past glory and preserve it as an iconic Banff heritage site,” said Gordon Lozeman, president of Caribou Properties.
“It’s effectively a ‘Banff Refreshing’ of the west entrance to Banff, which has long been an area lacking in any meaningful sense of arrival for guests,” he added.
“We’re really excited about it. We’re not expecting to hit a home run on a return on our investment; this is more about a community legacy initiative.”
The Banff train station was once the most important place in Banff, given the train was the only way to get to town in the days before there were good roads.
A log station was built at the site in 1888, but as the summer tourist business boomed in the era before the First World War, the log station was replaced by the present building in 1910.
This station is said to be directly linked to the development of the Canadian national park system and the evolution of the tourism industry in this country.
Lozeman said Caribou Properties still has to go through all the development review processes with the Town of Banff, noting Parks Canada has also been informed of their plans.
As part of the redevelopment plan, he said the company plans to let the existing tenants – Greyhound Canada and the Rocky Mountaineer – remain.
Lozeman said other businesses could include an activity outlet centre and a food and beverage outlet, which could be a grab-and-go operation or a restaurant.
He said they’d like to start work this summer and have the re-development fully completed for next spring.
“Our vision is to enhance the entire site and we’re just starting that planning process,” he said.
“Detailed planning and construction will take place over the next year.”
Mayor Karen Sorensen said she was absolutely delighted to hear that area of town is getting some much-needed attention.
“I am delighted to see re-investment into the town, and I am delighted at the thought that a truly wonderful facility and piece of history will have some life again,” she said.