A few weeks back I took a tour of the Rossdale plant and pump houses. I was struck by the deceptively large scale of the buildings, as well as the scale of the challenge. The generator hall is a beautiful open space with lots of light and clear potential. The boiler hall, which is the taller space on the west side is much more of a challenge – full of structural steel, the roof is failing, there is much less light, and the pigeons have thoroughly infiltrated it.
The pump houses are interesting, but are structurally complex (they go down several storeys) and the older one is also deteriorating because the roof is failing.
So the question comes before Executive Committee today – what to do with this site and buildings?
The report (to be discussed around 10:45 in the morning) recommends allocating enough funding to stabilize and protect the structure and roof for 10 years. Then taking time to find the right partners and uses. This is also the approach supported by Rossdale Regeneration, a broad-based community coalition.
The appendices to the report offer some interesting background research from our Historical Board and our Heritage Planners, including case studies from Winnipeg, Toronto, London, and Austin among others. The Austin example has some interesting elements including housing and lighting public art to screen the remnant substation.
I can’t be there for the discussion but I support the recommendation – we need time to consider our options and develop a viable business case for retention of the structures. They are deemed historic, so we have no choice. But we need time to come up with ideas that can work.
Whatever comes, I believe it will be essential to include an aboriginal component, to provide for improved access by various modes of travel, and, ideally, to ensure that future activity is financially sustainable without significant public dollars going into it.
Rising to this challenge will require real creativity, but if we don’t rush it I think we’ll find a solution that can help a larger goal of opening up the central part of our river valley to rich experiences for more users.