Montreal’s oldest train terminal, Windsor Station, is under the looming threat of development as Cadillac Fairview Corp move into the area with plans to build at least nine new skyscrapers.
Built by William Cornelius Van Horne for Canadian Pacific Railway just a few years after the company was founded in Montreal, Windsor Station saw its first train depart in 1889. But now, the building that sits in the heart of Montreal’s downtown at the corner of De La Gauchetière and Peel streets — next door to the Bell Centre — will be completely transformed over the next 15 years.
Windsor Station was designated a National Historic Site in 1975 because of its Neo-Roman construction and historic value. Although its original terminal is no longer used as a train station, the building often serves as a convention centre.
As a heritage site, the exterior of the building can’t be changed, but Heritage Montreal is concerned for the preservation of Windsor Station as well as the spirit of the neighbourhood it sits in.
“The station will be preserved,” said Heritage Montreal president Dinu Bumbaru. “But what will the presence of the station be, with all these constructions being erected around it?”
The development companies are known for their work in building and transforming commercial buildings; Cadillac Fairview — which is the real estate arm of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan — has a portfolio worth $23 billion.
Two projects near Windsor Station and the Bell Centre are already underway: the Tour des Canadiens luxury condo building and the Deloitte Tower. The company announced in late March a plan to build five residential towers and two office towers south of St-Antoine Street by 2029.
Windsor Station future uncertain
In an email to Radio-Canada, Cadillac Fairview said it was “too early” to tell how the promoter would change Windsor Station.
“It will be one of the elements of the final phase of the $2 billion plan. Cadillac Fairview is currently studying a number of plans for Windsor Station,” the email reads.
The area around the station has become an important financial sector over the years, and thousands of people flock to the area for Canadiens hockey games several times a week, making it a central tourism district.
“There is no doubt that the area will benefit from these investments, but to ensure the quality of the development, will take a talented approach,” Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal said.