City prepares to close deal on Santa Fe depot; restoration set to begin soon

The Santa Fe depot in East Lawrence is shown in this file photo from 2013.

City officials say this spring will bring the long-sought restoration of the Santa Fe train depot in East Lawrence.

The news comes more than three years after the city won a $1.2 million grant to restore the 1950s era brick building at Seventh and New Jersey streets.

“We are excited that this project will soon be moving forward as it has been long awaited by many,” said Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard.

The building has suffered what Stoddard calls “benign neglect,” but the city has not been able to move forward with the restoration project because it doesn’t own the building. Originally, the city hoped to take ownership of the building in 2014, but the transaction has taken longer than expected to finalize.

“The transaction is fairly complex because we have three different parties that are involved, and the whole transaction is subject to getting Amtrak’s OK on everything,” Stoddard said.

But the end is now within sight. Stoddard said the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway has indicated it is ready to complete the transaction, and the city is now only awaiting the completion of a review of the lease by Amtrak.

Amtrak runs the train service through Lawrence, and Stoddard said the city had to arrange lease agreements with both Amtrak and the railway company. Though the city will own the building, the railway will continue to own the land the building sits on. The railway will then lease the land to the city and the city will lease the building to Amtrak.

Amtrak runs two daily trains through the station. The route runs from Chicago to Los Angeles and makes daily stops in Lawrence at 11:52 p.m. and 5:47 a.m.

Repairs awaiting the building include a new roof, exterior maintenance and energy-efficient updates, including a solar and a geothermal system. Stoddard said plans also call for making accessibility improvements to the station to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We just really kind of want to put a shine on the building,” Stoddard said. “That’s kind of how I would characterize it because we want it to still function as a train station and be mindful of its history and its importance as a historic structure in Lawrence.”

Stoddard said once the renovation is complete, the city plans to find a secondary use for the building during the day — what that use might be is unclear at this point — and she said the hope is that construction will begin in the spring.

“At this point we are very hopeful that it will be able to be done here soon so that we can get the transaction closed and get the project bid.”