Local leaders are hopeful that the city will take ownership of the old Santa Fe Depot in East Lawrence by mid-2014, clearing the way for a multimillion dollar restoration project.
Diane Stoddard, an assistant city manager, said an environmental assessment recently was completed for the depot at Seventh and New Jersey streets and no issues were found that would delay a transfer in ownership from the BNSF Railway to the city.
"It was a good environmental assessment," Stoddard said. "We think we have a very good handle on the environmental issues with the building."
City officials now are working with railroad attorney to finalize language of an ownership transfer, which is anticipated to involve the city paying the railroad a nominal fee in exchange for taking over maintenance responsibilities of the structure.
The city already has been awarded a $1.2 million grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation to rehabilitate the 1950s-era depot. The city has agreed to use $300,000 in local funds as part of the project.
The project will include a new roof, new restrooms, accessibility improvements, new heating and air systems, and significant landscaping and parking lot improvements.
"It will put a real shine on the building," Stoddard said.
The building will continue to be used as a station for the two Amtrak trains that travel through the city each day. The railway also will continue to have an office in the building for its area maintenance crew.
Since the Amtrak trains come through in the late-night and early-morning hours, Stoddard said the city is looking for another daytime use for the building. She said there have been some preliminary discussions with Van Go Mobile Arts, which has its headquarters and classrooms across the street from the depot. She said other uses may be considered. She said any use proposals ultimately would be presented to the City Commission for final approval.