Chelsea, Quebec train station feasible


by Mark Burgess on September 23, 2010

A Chelsea, Quebec station for the HCW Steam Train is feasible both physically and financially, and it could dramatically transform New Chelsea with the development of adjacent housing, retail outlets and a hotel, according to an extensive study.

Sept. 22 Front page

Sept. 22 Front page

Chelsea Steam Train Feasibility Study team representative Tim Kehoe led a thorough presentation to Chelsea’s planning committee Sept. 20 before a packed house in Chelsea’s community centre basement. Participants in the eight-month, $270,000 feasibility study, including engineers, architects and financial analysts, assisted Kehoe during the presentation.

The group presented a $34-million conceptual plan that goes beyond a simple station to “enhance and revitalize New Chelsea village.”

“We’re really not creating anything or establishing anything,” Kehoe said, pointing to New Chelsea village’s heritage. “It’s about re-establishing.”

Although the study results were presented to the planning committee, Kehoe emphasized the fact that is only a feasibility study and not a development application.

But the work – funded largely by the federal government with assistance from the Caisse Desjardins de Hull, Innovation Chelsea, the CLD des Collines, the HCW Steam Train, the Community Table’s Outaouais Community Economic Development and Employability Committee and Outaouais Tourism – was thorough and paints a picture of a very different village centred around the station.

The study site comprised Innovation Chelsea’s 50 acres between Hwy 105 and the Gatineau River. The station would be complemented by a hotel, a large green space, as many as 130 residential units, office space, and a row of mixed residential-commercial buildings that would transform Hwy 105 into a “Main Street” of New Chelsea.

The zone would include a heritage market selling local art and artisanal fare, as well as local produce. Inside, the station would house an outdoor outfitter store, food services and interpretive space for the train that could employ 300 people. Services for locals could be located in the area as well, making it a hub for both tourists and residents.

Kehoe stressed there were a number of contingent factors to be addressed before moving forward, including reaching agreements with the HCW Steam Train company and the Compagnie de Chemin de fer de l’Outaouais, which owns the tracks.

Further soil studies to address the danger of slope instability near the ravine are needed, as well as a detailed development plan. It could also be contingent upon a municipal sewer and water system.

Kehoe said the station could be built with one-third private investment and two-thirds public, including grants, with public investment limited to $2 million. The hotel would only follow once the station was established on the steam train route as a destination.

The study team would now take time to engage all levels of government, as well as neighbouring citizens – a request that was made during the question period when some touched on the social impact that the plan for the most part omitted.

Kehoe stressed the opportunity for a development that was unlike others that could take its place.

“There is a unique alternative to the status quo development, and I think that it’s worth pursuing.”