Archive for Monday, February 6, 2017

Lawrence City Commission to consider takeover and restoration of Santa Fe depot

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

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

February 6, 2017

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After years of negotiations and planning, the City of Lawrence is only one vote away from taking ownership of the Santa Fe train depot in East Lawrence.

At their meeting Tuesday, city commissioners will vote whether to approve a contract to take ownership of the depot from the railway. City officials say the acquisition will clear the way for the city to begin a $1.5 million restoration of the mid-century station, similar to one done at Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence.

“It really does position us, much like the other depot, in order for us to be able to fix it up, make sure that it’s preserved for the future and available to continue to serve Amtrak and also the community however we define that in the future,” said Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard.

The building itself has had limited upkeep in recent years, and taking control of the station will allow the city to use a $1.2 million state transportation grant it won in 2013 to restore the building. Stoddard said the city would also be able to add the building to the register of historic places.

Should the project go forward, it would be the culmination of an effort begun in 2008 by a local preservation group, Depot Redux, which prompted the city to restore the station.

Unlike the Union Pacific Depot, the Santa Fe depot is an active railway stop. Amtrak runs two daily trains through the station, a one-story 1950s era brick building at Seventh and New Jersey streets. The Southwest Chief route runs between Chicago and Los Angeles and makes daily stops in Lawrence at 11:52 p.m. and 5:47 a.m.

As with the Union Pacific Depot, the city will be able to repurpose use of the building. However, with the Santa Fe depot, the building would still have to accommodate travelers.

“Because it is an active station, the lobby area will have to stay a lobby area so that it can serve Amtrak,” Stoddard said. “But there are opportunities, perhaps for public meeting space, that kind of thing, that wouldn’t be disruptive to the Amtrak use that will be able to be contemplated on down the road.”

Stoddard said the fact that the station is still in use also complicated negotiations, which require the city to have lease agreements with the railway and Amtrak.

The building is currently owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, which will transfer ownership of the building to the city at no cost and maintain ownership of the land the building sits on. As part of the deal, the railway will lease the land to the city for a nominal cost and the city will lease part of the building to Amtrak.

Amtrak will provide funding for modifications to bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Stoddard estimates the city’s share of the restoration to be about $160,000, less any funds from the sale of historic tax credits. She said costs will be finalized once the project is bid, which must occur by June.

If the City Commission approves the deal, the city will take over the ownership of the building following a closing with BNSF and Amtrak, Stoddard said. She said the restoration of the Santa Fe depot would start in late summer or early fall, and be completed sometime in 2018.

Comments

Michael Kort 1 year, 2 months ago

I know someone who took a cab in the night to the BNSF Lawrence Depot, to catch the 5:47 AM train headed east, who told me that they spent an hour on the platform in below freezing weather, waiting for a train that was late .

We all know that planes, trains and busses aren't always on time .

Operating transportation stations exist for days when it is 100 degrees in the shade, 0 degrees at sunrise, during blizzards, severe thunderstorms full of lightening strikes........ and for being in a place as a traveler, that is attended and reasonably publicly safe.......a place with phone to wait for a cab or for a friend to pick you up or to drop you off at .

I think that Lawrence needs a hub that combines Amtrac and Intercity Bus Lines all in the same place for travelers headed to and from somewhere .

If the above could be combined with an on site convenience store, where travelers could get basic microwavable food, Coffey, etc., how horrible would that be ?

Depot Redux 1 year, 2 months ago

When you buy your Amtrak ticket online, most passengers click on the option to receive a text alert when their train will be delayed. It is rare to find a traveler who doesn't use a cell phone these days, but there are a few. It is also rare to find a payphone which is incentive to travel with a cell phone.

Mark Kostner 1 year, 2 months ago

This is where Greyhound needs to stop,not the library,an actual depot built for passengers and make sure local transit stops there as well to connect with it. If the proposed Amtrak route to Texas is established, a second route would be stopping as well.The place could have a good future as a transportation hub.

Franz Bruyere 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree with this suggestion... good idea :)

Chris Bohling 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree, there's no reason to spend the money on a huge remodel. Just keep it clean and functional (for the most part, it already is). It doesn't need to be a tourist attraction nor does it need to be updated for stylistic reasons.

Depot Redux 1 year, 2 months ago

Depot Redux volunteers would appreciate more volunteer help when they clean the depot on the first Sunday of the month from 3-4:30.

Not to worry about becoming a tourist attraction or stylizing the depot. The grant money will only pay for new heating/cooling system, new roof, electrical upgrades, and curbs/ sidewalks

Bon Bon restaurant is just a block away from the depot but it's not a 24/7 place. In time maybe something even closer will develop. Murphy's upholstery across the street use to be the Santa Fe cafe - back in the day...

Alex Landazuri 1 year, 2 months ago

with what money can the city take this on?

Dee Hogan 1 year, 2 months ago

As the article states, most of the renovation is covered by a state grant. The amount the city will pay is pretty small all things considered. Leasing part of the building to Amtrak will help with costs, too. If they can add on to it with some nice amenities (convenience store, bank, fast food, etc.) the way larger stations like Union Station in KC and Chicago do, I'd imagine this could actually bring in revenue in the long run.

Our train station is real sad-looking right now. Would be nice to have a proper depot in town.

Chris Bohling 1 year, 2 months ago

Should the state really be spending money handing out grants for cosmetic renovations to a functional (admittedly not pretty, but functional) station when they're already robbing Peter to pay Paul to the nth degree?

Depot Redux 1 year, 2 months ago

The state did not issue the grant. KDOT is administering the grant and awarded it, but the source of funds are federal. It was a historic Transportation Enhancement great.

Depot Redux 1 year, 2 months ago

The leasing of the space for the to-be-determined secondary use will help pay for upkeep. The geothermal heating/cooling system, the new roof with solar panels will remarkably lower maintenance costs.

David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

Just perfect, a lobby where one CANNOT buy a ticket.

So is it to be taken off the tax rolls?

Depot Redux 1 year, 2 months ago

Like the airlines, Amtrak sells their tickets online. If the ridership is large enough (Ours isn't...yet), is large enough to cover the cost of a station agent, like in Newton and Topeka, a passenger could purchase their ticket at the station during open hours.

David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

So, Depot Redux, is the building going to be off the tax rolls?

By the way, an agent who was with the Topeka Station, now not selling tickets stated to me that Amtrak had their up , you know where. With Johnson county so close, there was not reason to not have an agent at the Lawrence stop. not really a station as it is and will not ever be.

Online, everything is supposed to be online, so why not have a virtual train ride!

Again, Depot Redux, you only provided a somewhat answer...what do you know about property taxes?

Depot Redux 1 year, 1 month ago

It will be on the local, state and national Historic Registers, thus providing for tax credits, a dollar for dollar reduction in tax liability.

David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

So with the geothermal heating, etc, will lthis be another money pit as the Castle Tea Room has been after Fritzel stiffed the trust. Then the castle private club management went to the county for a grant for marketing?

Lawrence is so filled with bottom feeders and the city and county just bends over forward ready for the whatever is asked for.

So the secondary "income" will be used for the lobby etc upkeep which translates into a clubhouse for Depot Redux. Where are the millionaires in town that ride the train and want to preserve the building...after all, some part of Depot Redoux is surely a 501c...? If not,,,it should be and then have a go fund me page.

Quit begging from all the residents in Lawrence for another clubhouse. And as for the city "owning" why can Scott McCullough send his staff there to clean some toilets and mop floors. The city is already paying for various janitorial services..amend the job descriptions, keep the pay the same. OH,,,maybe as part of the former mayor's punishment..how's about community service cleaning the place!

Jenny Hutchinson 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm surprised the city isn't going to give that building a face lift, destroying a relic from the 1950s and turning it into a bland cheap modern Lawrence architectural Comptonesque building.

Kelly Ryan 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you Depot Redoux for making Lawrence a better place. Seems like a pot of gold not a money pit to me.

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