Archive for Friday, July 6, 2012

Future uses of Burlington Northern train depot in Lawrence uncertain

July 6, 2012


Wanted: A new use for an old train depot.

Local transit officials are now urging Lawrence city commissioners to scrap plans that would convert the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Depot in East Lawrence into a hub for the city’s bus system.

Transit leaders are contending the site at Seventh and New Jersey streets is too small to accommodate the large buses that are part of the city’s T bus system. But if commissioners abandon plans to use the depot as a transit hub, it could throw into doubt whether the city would be in a position to buy the 1950s-era building, which historic preservationists contend is at risk of decay if it remains owned by the railroad.

“We have to maximize our tax dollars by coming up with some other use for this building,” City Commissioner Aron Cromwell said. “Right now it is used only as a train depot a couple of times during the night. The rest of the time it is empty. That is not enough use for us to justify purchasing and maintaining the building.”

Cromwell said he doesn’t have ideas now for what type of secondary use would be feasible in the building. He said it may be time to ask members of the public to come up with ideas for how the building could be used.

Carey Maynard-Moody, leader of the group Depot Redux, hopes commissioners don’t give up on the idea of buying the building.

“We just have to get creative and smart about it because we still need to protect that building,” Maynard-Moody said. “The neighborhood needs to be involved in helping us come up with a secondary use that would work for everyone.”

Maynard-Moody said she wants the city to take a hard look at whether it can use a portion of the depot space for office space for a city department. Preservationists, though, want the main portion of the depot to continue to be used a lobby and waiting area for train passengers. Amtrak stops at the depot twice a day — once early in the morning and once late at night — as part of the Southwest Chief route.

The idea of using the depot as a transit hub was considered, in part, because commissioners thought that might help the city garner outside funds to improve the building. But several neighbors objected to the idea of large amounts of buses coming through their neighborhood to access the station.

Transit administrator Robert Nugent said further study indicated the building probably wasn’t large enough to house the offices of the transit department, given that the railroad wants to reserve some of the office space for its use.

The railroad has been interested in selling the building to the city for a nominal fee. But commissioners have resisted taking ownership because there are multiple repairs that need to be done to the building, plus other renovation costs. A previous report has indicated about $400,000 worth of repairs are needed at the building.

Commissioners have sought grant funding for the building, but it has been difficult for the city to win a grant for a building it doesn’t own. Thus far, though, commissioners haven’t wanted to take over ownership of the building and hope that it will receive grant funding later. Cromwell said that is still his position.

“When you think about what we are doing with real estate, we need to be careful,” Cromwell said. “We’re expanding the library, we’re talking about a recreation center, we’re talking about police needs. Owning another building at this point is something we need to be careful about, but I do want to do what we can to save that building. It is a great landmark for the community.”


Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

Of course the city should buy the current depot. It is there it has decades of life left and Lawrence,Kansas COULD NOT build one for less.

Train travel is on the way back and this family loves traveling by train. We traveled by train on our honeymoon and since we've had children.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 11 months ago

Why don't you organize a group of private investors and purchase the building? You could either sell it back to the city for $1 or lease it as you see fit.

blindrabbit 5 years, 11 months ago

Also, are there any potential environmental problems with the property. Not a SuperFund issue, but maybe some others; be careful what you get for "free". City has dealt with those issues af Farmland property.

patkindle 5 years, 11 months ago

The only income potential for this property Is from usage of amtrac, it appears there is not enough business Being done that Burlington northern wants to continue to support it Their idea is to dump it in the lap of the city and walk away I suspect if enough business was being done, and I doubt if That will ever happen, the railroad would keep the property And spend their own money to upgrade it And keep it in their own list of assets. From a business standpoint , the railroad will be the Winner and the city will be the loser holding the bag for A bunch of folks that have money, but also don’t want to Waste it on a depot with not enough business to support it. Not now, and probably not in my lifetime anyway This is called the dumbing down of Lawrence ks

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 11 months ago

BNSF (not "Burlington northern")as are all American freight railroads is not in the passenger business. No American railroad has been since 1971. They have no use whatsoever for this building and are completely within their business savvy to dispose of it. Amtrak (not (amtrac) has had the passenger business in the US since then. But the real issue is the matter of public transit nationwide. Almost all countries in the world have a viable national rail passenger systerm. Tthe Chinese are developing a very efficient and valuable system in their country. But here in the US, we are all still welded to our guns, bibles and cars. The idea of a viable public national transit system has been fought for many years mostly by Republican political wonks who can afford to own and operater large wasteful cars. None of this is a salient issue in the this depot problem, but it is indicitave of the incredible stubborness of the American traveling pyublic to good and proper solutions to intercity travel that the rest of the world has resolved for many years now. New York City solved the probem of an unwanted Pennsylvania Station by destroying it. Many other American communities have followed suit. But it is an overall symptom of a national maliase of one person in one car that wil ultimately destroy our society while the rest of the world manages to address this huge problem.

werekoala 5 years, 11 months ago

Step one in sound fiscal policy is making investments based on current or future needs.

It is NOT getting your heart set on a particular investment, and then trying to shoehorn needs into it to justify your actions.

While I have high hopes for developing a decent passenger rail system in this country, I am confident that if and when demand increases, a rail station will be forthcoming. In the meantime it is not lawrence's job to spruce the current inge up, in the hopes of better days to come...

somebodynew 5 years, 11 months ago

“We have to maximize our tax dollars by coming up with some other use for this building,”

UH - No. Right now I don't think we have any tax dollars invested in this. Therefore if we don't buy the building we don't have to come up with creative ways to waste more money !!!

Merrill if you were correct I really believe the RR itself would be looking to keep the buidling. Just why do we "Have" to spend money and then find 'creative' ways to justify it ????

Yes, it is a neat old building, but there are a lot of them in Lawrence - are we going to buy them all?? OK, dumb question, some people would have us do just that.

JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

Is it the heat getting to me or is Aron Cromwell sounding more reasonable?

Larry Sturm 5 years, 11 months ago

The city should buy the depot. They don't think anything about spending 18M on library or who knows how many mil. on a rec. center . or how many mil. in tax rebates. For builders builders downtown.

patkindle 5 years, 11 months ago

my, my give it to the voters they will approve anything today we have so few folks that work for a living but so many folks in lawrence that vote for a living home and change you know it is better to vote it in and let everyone pay for it, so you can skate

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

Grind it up into gravel and use it for paving the SLT.

workinghard 5 years, 11 months ago

They should have spun it as an area for local artists to display their work, they would have no problem getting the city to buy it then.

50YearResident 5 years, 11 months ago

It is an easy solution, let the railroad keep the property and they can maintain it. Now that was pretty simple to solve, wasn't it?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 11 months ago

Seems that the majority of the work, other than the roof, was to make the building ADA compliant.

gccs14r 5 years, 11 months ago

If it were the transit hub, it would be a good home for businesses that cater to passengers, such as a newsstand or sandwich shop. Making the street one-way northbound would make the busses fit easily into the space.

Melissa Isaacs 5 years, 11 months ago

Do you have any idea how many Penney's concrete trucks come around that curve on a daily basis? Making that street one-way isn't a simple solution.

mae 5 years, 11 months ago

I see an old school '50's diner there and build up the bar population around it to increase revenue. Create another nightlife spot that's cooler than heading out of town.

tomatogrower 5 years, 11 months ago

Too bad it couldn't be the bus stop for cross country busses. Don't they stop at a gas station now?

gccs14r 5 years, 11 months ago

That would be nice, and yes, they do. Intermodal public transportation is the future. Kansas will just be 50 years behind, as usual.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 11 months ago

Great idea. The city of Columbia MO has made the old Wabash Railroad depot into a bus depot. The train yard behind the depot has been converted to a parking lot. What a reasonable and viable soultion!! The Wabash/Norfolk and Western/ Norfolk Southern railroad left town some time ago.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 11 months ago

Or maybe we could get rid of the empT and the problem solves itself. What a novel idea.

pace 5 years, 11 months ago

I am sorry they are giving up their plan. I thought they could make use of the existing alley easement behind Kennedy Glass to accommodate some of the traffic. Pity. Good spot for a hub. As always the railroad being bad caretakers and greedy land owners.

Rich Noever 5 years, 11 months ago

Yes, we have to pay 18 million for a library we should not build. Use less money to establish satellite libraries that would be useful to the whole Lawrence area not just for a already crowded downtown area. Yes, will are considering a West Lawrence Recreational Center. I suspect because Bill Self is for it. Not a required need for the community. Once again there is really a need to have professiional city planning not a bunch of volunteers who really don't know what they are doing.

jmadison 5 years, 11 months ago

Doesn't Warren Buffet's company own this railroad?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 11 months ago

BNSF railway is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, yes, Waarren Buffet's company.

MaxBlue80 5 years, 11 months ago

Any chance we could turn that building into a bar? It'd be a great change for those of us who tend to avoid Mass St, and it's right near that great parking lot.

James Minor 5 years, 11 months ago

How about a central transportaion hub, greyhound, trailways, city busses, and amtrack all are there? The city negotiates with BNSF for a settlement, and you know Warren has the bucks, for buying out of the liability of the BNSF owning the depot. $40M would satisfy everyone and a picture of Warren posted in the depot may help seal the deal for him to sign the check. We might also promise for the next five years to not beat his alma mater in basketball or football!!! He is probably not a sports fan so he won't know!!!!

patkindle 5 years, 11 months ago

this is a lost opportunity take possession and dump 20 or 30 million of taxpayeres dollars then dontate it to the redux bunch problem solved burlington northern is happy and so is everyone else that doesnt pay taxes in lawrence victroy for everyone but those that work for a living

Tricky Gnosis 5 years, 11 months ago

My suggestion for its future use is "rubble". Firstly the building is as ugly as sin and should only be in architecture textbooks with the caption "don't do this." Secondly, this idea of the city buying it because it's for sale cheap is wildly irresponsible.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

Shouldn't the whole city get to vote to see if tax money is going to get poured into this pit?

patkindle 5 years, 11 months ago

ok, you are a large multi million dollar company with lots of assets you dont need. you sell the ones that have value but are stuck with a bunch that no one else wants to buy or even take for free, becaue it will cost more to upgrade them to meet code, than it would cost to buy bare ground and build a usable building at a usable location one of these rat holes is in lawernce ks you find this town is full of liberals , tree huggers and bleeding hearts all you have to do is convince the city of take the property over and you walk away with all of your money in your pocket problem solved, everyone gets a big bonus and now you can party in topkea

CHEEZIT 5 years, 11 months ago

Yet another reason to make the MT buses smaller. Wait, that involves using common sense, Sorry!

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