Editorial: Depot project long overdue

The restoration of the Santa Fe train station is finally ready to move forward and that’s a win for Lawrence.

On Tuesday, the City Commission authorized Kansas Department of Transportation to award a $1.8 million bid for the restoration project to First Construction of Lawrence.

The awarding of the bid is a significant step in a process that has been ongoing for nearly a decade. In 2008, a local preservation group, Depot Redux, pushed for the city to take over and restore the station building, which has undergone minimal updates and changes over the years. (In 2013, the city received a KDOT restoration grant for the project.)

In May, the city and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway finally reached agreement on ownership of the station. The railway agreed to donate to the city the building near the intersection of Seventh and New Jersey streets. The station is a one-story, mid-century modern structure built in 1956.

The restoration project suffered a setback earlier this year when KDOT sought bids for the project but received no response. After making technical modifications, the project was re-bid last month and First Construction’s bid emerged.

Including $240,000 for engineering, the total cost comes to $2.04 million. Eighty percent of the project’s cost will be paid for by a KDOT grant, while the city will pay $409,000 for its portion.

The renovation has been in the works for years, and the city’s match is $24,000 more than the amount projected in 2014. City staff said the possible sale of historic tax credits and reimbursement from Amtrak for upgrades required by the Americans with Disabilities Act will make up the difference.

The majority of the restoration is expected to be complete in 2018.

The station remains an active railway stop, and Amtrak leases part of the property to operate its Southwest Chief route.

The Santa Fe Station is in an attractive location, serving as a northern boundary of sorts for Lawrence’s growing Warehouse Arts District. The restoration will provide the community with an asset that can be used for a variety of purposes. Congratulations to Depot Redux and the city for persevering on a worthwhile project.