New $210M transit garage incorporates old Edmonton landmark

The new $210M Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage is the future home of 700 transit employees and Edmonton's fleet of 300 buses.

Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage taking shape in Edmonton's former meat-packing district

Tour the construction underway on the $210M project with Jesse Banford, City of Edmonton's director of facility infrastructure delivery. 1:15

Kathryn Ivany peeks out from under a hard hat at the new $210M Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage, the future home of 700 transit employees and Edmonton's fleet of 300 buses.

The 13-acre site at 12403 Fort Road was once the heart of Edmonton's thriving meat-packing industry.

"Meat packing actually began out in this area about 1908," said Ivany, a City of Edmonton archivist. "The railway had come through here and of course if you're packing meat you want to ship it off. So this is why the original plants came here."

City of Edmonton archivist Kathryn Ivany surveys the work on the historic smokestack at the Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Meat packers like Swifts, Burns and Canada Packers thrived here, but now all that remains is a 12-storey smokestack.

"It's very interesting because it's actually got terracotta tiles," Ivany said. "It's not brick."

The smokestack will be the centrepiece of a new public park that will open alongside the transit garage.

"It's a very good reminder of what happened here and how the people who lived around this area made their living from these plants," Ivany said. 
City of Edmonton archivist Kathryn Ivany walks us through the historical significance of the 12-storey smokestack dating back to 1936. 1:47

The garage is named after the city's first female bus driver.

Kathleen Andrews died in 2013, but in a conversation with the CBC at the beginning of her career in 1976, Andrews explained she preferred driving to an office job.

"I like driving, I wanted to be outside, I was sick of working in an office so that's why I took the job," Andrews explained.

The pay was certainly another factor, she said, as her hourly wage jumped from $3 to $7.50 an hour.

Hear what the first female bus driver with Edmonton Transit Service had to say about her job back in 1976. 2:05

But it wasn't easy for the trailblazer.

"She faced drunken louts trying to pick her up, male colleagues who questioned her ability to drive, and both female and male passengers who refused to get on the bus because she was a woman," said Andrews' daughter, Lisa Andrews, who followed her mother into the business and is now an ETS operator and instructor.

Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage is scheduled to open late next year.

You can see more from the Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage on Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m. and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV.

About the Author

Adrienne Lamb is an award-winning journalist based in Edmonton. She's the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. Adrienne has spent the last couple of decades telling stories across Canada.