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City on track to sell former train station

Council authorizes staff to consummate deal with preferred bidder; heritage building will be preserved
orillia train station
The former Orillia train station could soon become the property of a developer. The city has selected a winning bid and staff has been authorized to negotiate the property's sale.

The city moved one step closer to selling the former train station Monday night.

In a closed-session meeting held prior to its council committee meeting, city councillors voted to allow staff to “negotiate an agreement of purchase and sale” of 150 Front Street.

Last week, Laura Thompson, manager of real estate and commercial development for the city, told OrilliaMatters the city had received “multiple bids” for the property.

Staff weighed those bids and selected what they believe to be the best offer. Councillors agreed.

If last night's decision is ratified at Monday's council meeting, staff and the unidentified bidder will try to work out a deal for the property.

While there was no discussion publicly about the matter, Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke said after Monday’s meeting that he is enthused about the site’s potential.

“I think they have a couple of exciting ideas related to development on the property, but I can’t talk to specifics,” said the mayor.

However, he stressed the deal will ensure the building is preserved.

“it is enshrined under provincial legislation that the exterior of the building needs to be maintained,” Clarke said of the building, which has a heritage designation.

The mayor said council committee’s decision, if ratified Monday, allows staff to “go ahead and have wholesome chat” with the bidder. Any final decision on the sale would come back to councl for approval.

While there is no timeline spelled out, Clarke said he expects a potential deal to be done within six weeks.

The building is the long-time home of the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce and its Service Ontario operation, which is moving to the plaza at 575 West St. S. in the spring.

It also serves as a depot for Ontario Northland’s bus service. That entity is looking for a new facility; its lease expires this fall.

According to the city’s register of designated properties, the railway station was built in 1917 by the Grand Trunk Railway.

The single-storey masonry building has a “distinct roofline” in addition to large passenger and freight loading platforms. It was built after the original structure was destroyed by a fire in 1915. It was restored in 1989.

Constructed during the First World War, it served as a transfer station for troops stationed at Base Borden.

The facility served the same purpose during the Second World War.

The station boasts architectural and cultural heritage elements “representative of the operation and design of early 20th century” railway stations.

“The property is a community landmark and contains the only unmodified railway station in Orillia,” the document notes.