Plans to demolish buildings at the former DSME Trenton site aren’t sitting well with some in the community.
In December 2018, Nova Scotia Lands issued a request for proposal soliciting interest from companies to demolish and remove Building C and D as well as power house and training centre buildings and related buildings at the site.
Prior to being used to build wind turbines, the mammoth facility had operated as a rail car factory and employed more than 1,000 people at one time at the 430,000-square-foot facility that sits on 116 acres of land.
“I totally disagree with what they’re doing, as do a lot of people,” said Steve Ehrhardt who worked in operations at the facility for 33 years.
When Greenbrier left in 2007, he was employed by the receiver to help maintain the facility and provide information to prospective buyers.
While there are some buildings that could definitely go without leaving much of a void, he believes some of the ones on the list for demolition still have life left in them.
“Once that thing’s gone, it’s gone for good and we’ll have no industrial base left here,” he said.
NS Lands took over ownership of the plant in September 2018, after the receiver was unsuccessful in finding a buyer for the entire property. Equipment from the buildings was auctioned off in November.
Speaking on behalf of NS Lands, Marla MacInnis said none of the buildings slated for demolition were ever used as part of DSME’s operations.
“The buildings all have occupational health and safety risks, are unsightly and well beyond repair,” she stated. “They have been a negative distraction when showing the site to potential tenants. We hope to have demolition compete by March 31.”
But Ehrhardt begs to differ.
He said the brick Training Centre building, which was used for office space, for instance, is still structurally sound and should stay. While it may not be in great shape on the inside now, he said when Greenbrier owned it they had completely renovated the interior.
According to tender documents, the building is about 100 years old and the main structure is approximately 40 feet by 70 feet. Inside, the floors are hardwood, said Ehrhardt, with crown moulding and waist-high wainscoting. The board room was done over with oak inside during one renovation. In his opinion it’s the closest thing Trenton has left to a heritage building.
Another building he believes could and should be salvaged is the power house.
“Although it’s not in good shape, if they tear down the power house you have no way of getting power into the plant,” he said, adding they wouldn’t be able to heat the plant.
If the rest of the plant isn’t heated he said snow could build up on the roof and cause other buildings to collapse. He said that happened to a 1,300-square-foot building on the site about 25 years ago.
He believes there are also risks to tearing down C and D shops. He was told by one of the old engineers the way the building was designed the structure is interdependent. He worries that if a wrong move is made during demolition, other shops could be impacted.
“It makes no sense to tear down those two buildings,” he said. “Those buildings still have a lot of use left in them. I'm just wondering what’s motivating them.”
As someone who spent most of his working life there, he said it’s frustrating not to see only the past tore apart, but what he believes is the future.
"Knowing the potential the place has that’s what really, really bothers me," he said. "Once that thing’s gone, it’s gone for good and we’ll have no industrial base left here.”
Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn said he’s also not pleased with what’s happening. He said he knows of a party that’s interested in buying the entire facility, but has been delayed while trying to secure funding. Dunn believes those buildings could be repurposed if that buyer were successful, but it would cost millions to replace those buildings if they’re destroyed now.
"There’s still a group that are trying to acquire the finances to purchase the entire place. They'd prefer the building stay put as such as they are now,” Dunn said.
Dunn could not elaborate on who the prospective buyer is, only to say, “There would be a variety of things they’d be doing if they were able to acquire the facility. ... They would need the entire acreage.”
He believes at the very least, NS Lands should wait.
“I would prefer they leave those buildings alone for the time being,” he said. “Whether you take them down now or in a year’s time, I don’t think it would alter that much. I don’t think they’re gaining anything by doing it right now.”
He said there’s always a glimmer of hope that the entire facility could once again be bustling with activity and employing people.
“If they continue to knock some of the buildings down, it’s going to be even more difficult to find someone to take over the entire place.”
BUILDINGS THAT COULD BE DEMOLISHED
This three-storey building was primarily used as office space. The building is about 100 years old and the main structure is 40 feet by 70 feet. It is a mainly wooden structure with a brick exterior.
C and D Buildings
The C and D Buildings are primarily concrete and each building is 90 feet wide by 1,100 feet in length. The extension is attached to D Shop and is 20 feett by 70 feet. Built over 100 years ago, the roof is wooden purlin bolted to metal truss sheathed with 2” tongue and groove spruce, mostly covered with asphalt shingles, however, some areas have metal roofing, according to tender documents.
The Power House is approximately 75 feet by 150 feet and 18 feet by 32 feet with concrete and transite siding exterior walls and cement panel roof. It is over 100 years old. The interior has two storeys – a bunker storage, and a carpenter shop which is 46 feet by 105 feet.
Health and Safety Building and Addition
These two buildings are single-storey units on slab that were primarily used for an office environment. They are approximately 60 years old and the building’s main structure is approximately 27 feet by 23 feet and 10 feet by 14 feet, respectively. They are mainly wooden structures with metal exterior siding.
This building is a single-storey unit on slab that was primarily used for an office environment. It is approximately 60 years old and the building’s main structure is approximately 38 feet by 215 feet. This building is mainly a wooden structure with metal exterior siding and an asphalt shingle roof.
Scale House and Trailer
This a single-storey house on the shallow concrete foundation that is connected to a trailer and is approximately 60 years old. The building’s main structure is approximately 16 feet by 20 feet. It is a wooden structure with wooden siding and an asphalt shingle roof connected to a portable office trailer.
This building has previously been demolished; all that remains is the concrete slab and walls. The existing walls must be demolished, and the slab must be free and clear of all holes, trenches and tripping hazards.
Paint Mixing and Storage Building
This two-storey building is approximately 60 years old with concrete and block walls, and an asphalt shingle roof. The building’s main structure is approximately 30 feet by 85 feet. It is a wooden structure with wooden siding and an asphalt shingle roof connected to a portable office trailer.
Maintenance Area #2
This is a two-storey garage with concrete slab, steel siding and an asphalt shingle roof and is approximately 80 years old. The building’s main dimensions are approximately 75 feet by 140 feet.