|CN vacates downtown Edmonton's landmark CN Tower
|The last of a CN presence in downtown Edmonton has come to end with this months move of 250 CN
employees from the CN Tower to existing offices and a new office complex just built at Walker Yard,
north of Edmonton’s City Centre Airport.
The CN Tower, when it was built in 1966, was the tallest office building in Western Canada. It was sold
by CN some years ago and the Company has been leasing back space in the building. By the mid-
1990s, CN occupied half (13 floors) of the 26-storey tower, but a “change to its business model,” which
became evident once American E. Hunter Harrison took control of the Company as President and CEO
from Paul Tellier in 2002, has seen downtown-based jobs and departments slowly moving to existing
office space at Walker Yard. Coupled with years of downsizing, by the time 2008 rolled around, CN
occupied only a few floors of what was once the heart of its Western Canada operations.
The building was the workplace for thousands of CAW Local 4001/Council 4000. CAW Agreement 5.1
members were employed in various departments that called the CN Tower home over the years,
including Car Management; Customer Service; Employee Relations; Engineering; Fleet Management;
Human Resources; Mailroom; Revenue and Accounting; Safety and Loss Control; Signals and
Communications; Supply Management and Transportation.
The “Tower,” as it was affectionately known by CN Edmonton-based employees, was a railway Mecca in
the City of Edmonton. Just below all of CN’s activities was the VIA Rail Station at the base of the tower,
once a stopping point for the famous Canadian and Trans-Continental passenger trains that crossed
Canada. VIA is also long gone.
The VIA Station is now located adjacent the west-side of the City Centre Airport on 121 Street and just
south of CN’s Walker Car Shop.
As in most other Canadian cities, Edmonton’s downtown rail yards, which eastern leg of the yard started
at the CN Tower and ran west alongside 104 Avenue, has been converted to commercial developments,
apartments, condominiums and Grant MacEwen College, which is Alberta’s largest college.
The lease with current owners Tawa International Inc., who bought the building from Trizec Hahn in
2001, was up for renewal, “so it was a good time to make this move,” CN spokesperson Jim Feeny said.
"It's in line with the centralization we're doing at other major centres," Feeny said. The 26-storey tower is
also an older building that does not fit with the company's current business model, added Feeny.
The move is part of a network-wide consolidation that began in 1994 when CN spent $12 million combining four other Western Canada operational centres
into Walker Yard. In 2006, CN's state-of-the-art North American network control centre, which monitors traffic on the Company's 19,200 miles of tracks, moved
out of CN’s downtown tower location to its Operations Building at Walker Yard.
"Whenever you lose jobs downtown it's not good, but the reality is that the time for railroads to be there is gone," said Jim Taylor, executive director of the
Downtown Business Association. Taylor said that the downtown transportation system is much more efficient since CN moved out and the infamous ‘109th
Street Rathole’ (a tunnel that ran underneath the downtown rail yards) was removed.
Taylor said that if there was ever a good time for the CN move it's now, with AA office lease rates closing in on $20 a square foot, and vacancy rates at 5.6 per
cent, second only to Calgary among Canada's major cities. "It's not a big blow to downtown in any way. Real estate guys tell me they don't have the contiguous
space available anywhere for a large tenant right now."
And for the first time since 1990, when Commerce Place was completed, construction is underway on new office towers in downtown Edmonton, in addition to
the many new condominiums and apartment complexes that have been built and are continuing to be built.
The City of Edmonton is now a major tenant in the building, with Edmonton’s City Hall conveniently located just across 104 Street from the CN Tower.
Nobody knows whether the large CN logo, which glows off-and-on from all four sides at offsetting times from atop of the tower, lighting up the city’s sky, will be
taken down or remain in tact where its been a landmark since 1966.
Below is the architect's rendition of the new addition to CN Operations Building at Walker Yard, and photos of the construction and finished look:
|On the right is the new addition to CN's |
Operations Building at Walker Yard in Edmonton
||Construction last summer on the new addition
to the Walker Yard Operations Building
|Photo taken a couple of weeks ago on the nearly
completed addition to the Walker Operations Building
to house the remaining departments that will move
from the CN Tower in May 2008