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Archive for Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inability to secure grant for renovation of Santa Fe Depot in East Lawrence could delay city’s purchase

January 30, 2011

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If city commissioners want to renovate and improve the Santa Fe Depot in East Lawrence, they’re likely going to have to take a bigger risk than originally planned.

City staff members have confirmed that efforts to create a deal that would allow the city to buy the depot only if it first receives a grant to rehabilitate it have not gone well.

“Given the amount of time it takes to put these transactions together, the railroad wants to have a greater amount of certainty about having a transfer occur,” said Diane Stoddard, the assistant city manager who has been working on the deal.

But that may be a tough pill for city commissioners to swallow. The city knows there are at least $600,000 worth of repairs that need to be made to the 1950s-era building at Seventh and New Jersey streets. Some of the repairs — such as improvements to bring the building up to ADA compliance — will need to be completed in a timely manner regardless of whether the city receives a grant.

“It is fair to say there are a number of costs that would have to be addressed,” Stoddard said.

But a group of area residents hoping to restore the depot plans to ask commissioners to buy the building anyway.

“This is the wrong time to be backpedaling,” said Carey Maynard-Moody, leader of the Depot Redux group. “The station will never be cheaper again. It is time to assume some risk because I think the benefits will be great.”

City commissioners previously haven’t been interested in moving forward without more financial certainty. But Maynard-Moody said members of her group plan to lobby commissioners on the subject at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting.

Nothing prohibits city staff members from applying for grants for the depot, with the hope of negotiating a deal to purchase the depot after receiving a grant. But both Maynard-Moody and Stoddard said it may be difficult for the city to win a grant for a building it does not own or have a contract to own.

“If we own the building, the chances of us getting a grant for the rehabilitation go up 100 percent,” Maynard-Moody said. “Without ownership, our chances of getting a grant aren’t good.”

Stoddard said the railroad has confirmed that it is willing to sell the building to the city for a low- to no-cost purchase price. The railroad, though, won’t sell the land that the building is on. Instead it would offer a low-cost 30-year ground lease. Stoddard, however, said details of that proposed lease have created questions. The railroad wants the city to assume any environmental liabilities associated with the land. The city hasn’t studied whether there are any environmental liabilities. Stoddard said she’s not confident the railroad is willing to budge from that position.

The depot currently serves as the Amtrak station for the city. Maynard-Moody’s group has been working to generate interest in the local Amtrak service. Ridership at the Lawrence station has increased by 13 percent in the last year, better than the 6 percent increase Amtrak experienced nationally.

Comments

Gedanken 4 years ago

This is a great idea!

I have another idea that we can add to it. We need to improve and renovate Wal-Mart. It is such an eye sore! I am sure that Wal-Mart would be more then willing to sell the city their building at little to no cost as long as they get to use it. I am sure they will want to keep the land, but that is fine. Having ownership of the building off their hands will surely lower their property tax. I bet they would love to have no environmental responsibility for that service department. We get a building that we can dump money into and they can have a great looking store! We both win! Lawrence is awesome.

FarneyMac 4 years ago

Tell ya what. You give me a viable high-speed rail option for traveling throughout the midwest, and I'll happily support renovating the awful depot. Heck, I'll consider selling a kidney to finance the renovation myself.

But hopping on a slow, creaky, filthy Amtrak train at 3am for a 10-hour trip to Chicago that costs more than a plane flight? No thanks. Keep your crappy train depot.

Flap Doodle 4 years ago

More money whizzed away on east Lawrence.....

bearded_gnome 4 years ago

won’t sell the land that the building is on. Instead it would offer a low-cost 30-year ground lease. Stoddard, however, said details of that proposed lease have created questions. The railroad wants the city to assume any environmental liabilities associated with the land. The city hasn’t studied whether there are any environmental liabilities. Stoddard said she’s not confident the railroad is willing to budge from that position.

---wow, what a cool idea!
I do wonder if the RR does know about enviro risks and is just not sharing their info/history.

I have written multiple times before regarding the upgrade of this building: costs are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay under estimated, especially for ADA compliance.
with the current state of our local finances, is this what we should be spending money, human hours, on now?

Kontum1972 4 years ago

wonder how much their water bill costs them?

George Lippencott 4 years ago

Lets use the money we don't spend on Mental; Health care

Mark Jakubauskas 4 years ago

$600,000 to renovate this train-wreck of a building ? $600K to preserve a bad example of a bad architectural style ? I can think of a dozen things in our city that could benefit from that kind of money, things that would have much greater impact on the health, welfare, and general good living of this town, than sinking dollars into that rathole that benefits NO ONE !

If you must have a depot there, how about bulldozing this eyesore and using the $600,000 to build a new one ? Something attractive ? Really, for the amount of traffic that the place gets, how about a used bus shelter with a pay phone and a Porta-John ? The ambiance would be about the same....

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