Huntsville’s train station is almost open for business thanks in part to a volunteer work crew from the Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst.
The men were at the historic building for the day on Monday, July 30 to help clear out garbage, paint the interior with heritage colours, and clean up the exterior. (Pictures of the work in progress weren’t permitted by the institution.)
Partners Adam Caswell, John Pantaleo and Scott Richardson purchased the heritage building from the Town of Huntsville via an RFP process last year and created a not-for-profit entity to manage its use. It had been closed in 2016 due to air quality concerns; the Town was responsible for dealing with drainage issues related to the storm sewer system, while the new owners repaired the HVAC system. “The air quality is good now,” said Richardson.
That work was done earlier in the year, with inmates from Beaver Creek’s volunteer program finishing up the process of making it presentable for the time being. As a not-for-profit and with the heritage status of the building, the new Huntsville Community Initiative Centre qualified to receive help from the volunteers. “It’s a good fit,” said Richardson. “I’m really happy. They just rolled in here and got to work.” Little Caesars owner Chris Hays donated a pizza lunch for the men.
The new owners have assumed the remainder of the lease between the Town and the Huntsville Suzuki School of Music, which has moved back into part of the building. And they’ve had several inquiries about weddings and wedding photos, as well as interest in longer term rentals. If those fall through, they’ll rent the space for small functions like meetings, birthday parties, and reunions for now, although they would have to be catered as there are no kitchen facilities in the building yet.
“If you need some space it’s available,” said Richardson. “The lights are on. It’s climate controlled. There’s lots of parking.” He added that they will eventually have someone available in the building for questions and bookings, but in the meantime people can reach out to any of the partners.
Eventually, the group will start the project that they bought the property for: a community hub with commercial kitchen space that can be used for larger events and business incubator activities. They’ll open up the interior wall, said Pantaleo, where there is purportedly an archway though historical photos of the original interior of the station are hard to come by. “It will be one big open space for whatever people want to do,” he said, adding that they’d welcome a decision by the Ontario government to return passenger train service to Huntsville as Premier Doug Ford said he would during the election campaign.
Renovations to the building are bound by its heritage designation.
“We are confident in the expertise, competence and resources of the Ontario Heritage Trust and the new owners to work together under the terms of the Heritage Conservation Easement to repair, maintain and protect the heritage attributes and cultural value of the Huntsville Train Station far into the future,” said Teri Souter, the Town’s Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage.
The Huntsville Community Initiative Centre will hold an open house in September during Culture Days festivities, where people can tour the space, meet the new owners, and learn more about their plans for the future.
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