Retailers help roll out Roundhouse
By BRYN WEESE, SUN MEDIAF lanked by a brewery and a new furniture store, the city’s restored John St. Roundhouse and park is chugging its way to becoming the heart of Toronto’s railroad heritage.
Yesterday, Mayor David Miller helped drive the last spike in the Roundhouse’s refurbished turntable as the new 40,000-sq-foot Leon’s, a tenant in the Roundhouse, was opened.
Of the 32 roundhouse bays, once used to repair steam and diesel passenger trains that passed through Union Station, three have been preserved in original condition for a yet-to-be-opened museum, called Toronto Railway Heritage Centre.
The entire restoration cost $25 million, paid mostly by the two commercial tenants in advanced rent.
Already a home to the Steam Whistle Brewery, Leon’s is the newest Roundhouse partner — an addition that has generated controversy.
“I was probably one of the most outspoken critics most worried about what would happen when Leon’s opened,” said Councillor Adam Vaughan, who yesterday called the revitalized Roundhouse a “terrific gift” to the city.
“It took five minutes for me to be won over.”
According to officials yesterday, the retailer’s presence in the Roundhouse, which was built in 1929 and decommissioned in 1988, is completely reversible.
The polished concrete floor can be removed to reveal the original floor and tracks — and even the light fixtures are clamped, not screwed, to wooden supports inside.
Orin Krivel, president of the Toronto Railway Historical Society, said he was “stunned in a good way” to see things finally shaping up at the John St. Roundhouse, even if the museum and heritage park includes the brewery and retail outlet.
“Without the rent paid by Leon’s and Steam Whistle, we wouldn’t have a museum,” he said. “It wouldn’t work without them, and we’re just darn lucky they turned out to be such great partners to work with.”
Miller called the project one of the best Canadian examples of an “adaptive re-use” of an historical building.