Town council has given the green light to complete a one-storey $4.85 million transit hub on the west side of its Railway Street property and has postponed the development of a three-storey innovation centre for the time being.

Funding for the transit hub is funded largely with a provincial government GreenTRIP grant, but the second, and larger building, was largely modelled to be a self-supporting capital venture that initially required borrowing by the town.

Long-term agreements with tech companies were seen as a way to make the economic development project possible without putting too much weight on taxpayers. Now those companies interested in participating in the project have taken a step back, at least for the time being.

Instead, a smaller area for tech innovation is being incorporated into the transit hub.

Town interim CAO Drew Hyndman provided extensive background to council on why the development of the entire property will take place in stages. 

"The question came down to what can we build within the GreenTRIP funds and really have little to no impact on our residents, which we deemed at a time like this is really important," Hyndman told council.

Approval means construction can start in 2021 and be completed in 2022.

The detailed design, construction of a 715 sq. m (approx. 7,770 sq ft.) Transit Hub and site development are projected to cost $4.85 million, and construction will begin in 2021.

A total is $3.3 million is from provincial GreenTRIP funding and $1.3 million in Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding. The town will not need to borrow any funds and there will be no impact upon taxes.

Annual operating costs of the new building are estimated to be $55,000. 

Space would also be allotted within the building for a town office to provide residents ready access to town services, as well as an innovation incubator/co-working concept, expected to offer little or no financial risk to the town. It would also include public washrooms that are in high demand in the downtown core.

Its development is being timed to occur at the same time as the CP pedestrian crossing from Railway St. into the Historic Downtown. That project is being funded through the Community Revitalization Levy.

It also times out well with the development of a new parking lot across the street and adjacent to the Cochrane Public Library.

There remains ample room on the Railway St. property for future development, including a future railway station should a heavy rail service be established. Currently, the possibility of a passenger train service between Calgary and the mountain parks is being examined, including stops in Cochrane and Morley.

Access to the GreenTRIP funding is currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2020. The town is currently in discussions to extend that funding into 2021.