The deal has been done – the Friends of Freeman Station now have what they need to get on with restoring the station.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 29, 2013  Finally, the document was signed and the Friends of Freeman Station (FOFS) could get on with the task of moving the structure from its storage site the couple of hundred yards from where it sits beside the Fire Station on Plains Road to its restoration home on property they have rented from Ashland Oil.

The City of Burlington and The Friends of Freeman Station have signed a joint venture agreement that outlines the shared responsibility for relocating Freeman Station, the city’s historic train station.

Much of the railway level thinking that is part of the FOFS task, was done by the John Mellow, shown here talking to the Mayor.  On the far right Reg Cooke.  In between is Ron Steiginga , ther man at city hall who stick handled all the paper work between the city and a multinational corporation located in Burlington that owns the land.  The Mayor signed the agreement on behalf of the city.

It has been a grind – but it’s done and now the team moves on to the next step.  And it didn’t take this crowd long to get a move on.  They signed contracts to move the building onto the new site and they signed a contract with the company that is going to oversee the actual restoration less than two hours after the agreement with the city was signed.

The building will get moved onto its new location and will then have the basement dug and put on its new foundation.  The idea is to get the structure moved – it’s been sitting in sort of storage for far too long.

FOFS station expect to have the move done late in April

Freeman Station, built in 1906 by the Grand Trunk Railway, is being moved from the Burlington Fire Department headquarters on Fairview Road to corporately-owned land nearby, thanks to an agreement between the city, the Friends of Freeman Station and manufacturer Ashland Inc.

Signing what is called the Joint Venture Agreement – a JV in city hall lingo – is the start and the document sets out who is to do what, and, when and where the chips fall if and when the wheels fall of the venture.

James Smith, President of Friends of Freeman Station, and Mayor Goldring signed the agreement, which includes moving details and costs for the move, expected to take place in April or May.  Further agreements are being negotiated to cover the restoration and operation of the station as an educational facility and community space.

JV’s are relatively new to the city – each organization out there using a city owned building or a structure on city owned land will have a Joint Venture agreement with the city.  This practice is one that was introduced by General Manager Scott Stewart. ‘There was a time when the city had all kinds of agreements, some done on not much more than a handshake, with no one at city hall really know what was really going on.”   That practice has stopped.

The city recently passed an evaluation framework for all Joint Venture operations – it will be a sort of report card type report – council wants that document ready for sometime late this year.

Getting the Freeman Station stabilized and then moved is what is going to occupy the FOFS crowd for the immediate future; then the fund-raising that is going to be needed to make it all possible.

Oddly enough – the even bigger step is to determine what they want to do with the building once it has been restored.  Saving the structure has been the focus – and it has not been an easy task.   Much of the credit for giving the FOFS station the time they needed to find a home for the building goes to Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster.  It was their effort that convinced city council to give them more time. The city had totally  screwed up the Stimulus grant it had gotten from the federal government and it looked as if the building was going to end up as kindling for someone’s fireplace.

The city ran an advertisement trying to get someone to just haul it away – even with that there were no takers.  There were some less than generous comments made by a number of councillors during the debates on what to do with the building.  Councillor Sharman’s behaviour was not one he will put in his resume.

All that is behind us – isn’t it – or will we see everyone on this Council taking credit for “saving” the Freeman Station?

Despite a council that couldn’t figure out a way to save the building it has now been saved and while the ceremonial signing of the Joint venture was a quiet event – it is a significant one for Burlington.  Citizens moved in and took over when their council was unable to do what needed to be done; something that needs to be remembered.  Citizens are the last resort.

From the left John Mellow, James Smith, tucked in behind him is Less Armstrong, then Mayor Goldring, then Brian Aasgaard, Councillor Blair Lancaster, Reg Cooke, Councillor Meed Ward and FOFS member Jacqui Gardner.  This picture would never had been taken were it not for the work of Meed Ward and Lancaster.  The Mayor was never a strong supporter of the idea – he just went along with the rest of council when he was just a member.

Now what – building is saved; it will be restored, expect the guys doing the job to provide the city with an exceptional restoration.  The bring passion, energy and enthusiasm to the task.

Les Armstrong on the left knows better than many people in the city what it was like when the railway line ran along the edge of the Lake west of Spencer Smith Park.  Armstrong talks with James Smith, president of the FOFS and a former candidate for the ward 5 seat at the council table.  Is he gearing up for another shot at that brass ring?


While it will sit on a site that is far from where the station will eventually rest – the longer term challenge is to get the station into Beachway Park alongside the old railway embankment where it truly belongs.

That will take some effort on the part of FOFS but they have shown this city council, and this city, that they can get things done.

Their fund-raising drive will start soon – be generous, it is your heritage you’re paying for.  A city that has struggled with what it wants to keep and doesn’t want to keep in terms of buildings took a big step in the right direction last night.

For Burlington to have a Heritage Advisory Committee that is doing great work and to also have a citizens committee that stepped in when its city council couldn’t put one foot in front of the other without tripping – this is a good day for Burlington.  Celebrate!

The Friends of Freeman Station will be at the Burlington Heritage Fair, on Saturday, Feb. 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Burlington Central Library, 2331 New Street.  Visitors can see pictures of Freeman Station, get updates on the big move, and view train-related artifacts. Supporters can buy a T-shirt or print of the station, became a member and sign up for email updates.

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1 comment to The deal has been done – the Friends of Freeman Station now have what they need to get on with restoring the station.

  • Walter Mulkewich

    Re “Joint Venture Agreements” – They are not new to Burlington, having been around for as long as forty years and always fully negotiated and documented.