I just posted some pics of the train depot the other day. I found it interesting there is a plan for a restoration in the works. It would be awesome if this truly could happen. So much still needs to be done in downtown Decatur. Many comments on this story were negative, feeling as if the city would not maintain the structure once it is restored. Others, feels it is necessary to revive a historical part of the city. I am on the latter side.
City leaders’ plan to bring the aging former L&N Railroad Depot in Northwest Decatur back to its former glory will take more money than the $900,000 awarded through a state grant.
Work on the 112-year-old structure at Railroad and Vine streets Northwest must begin by Jan. 17 or the city could lose the $720,000 the Alabama Department of Transportation gave Decatur in 2009.
The grant requires a $180,000 local match, and the city and Downtown Redevelopment Authority have agreed to put up $90,000 each.
Officials are confident they can make the deadline once they get an estimate of the project’s cost from an outside firm, said Wally Terry, economic and community development director.
Preliminary estimates for the renovation range from $1.2 million to $1.5 million. DDRA Executive Director Rick Paler said the project is so important, his agency would be willing to pay more to make sure it’s done right.
Public and private support could be sought to pay for costs not covered by the ALDOT grant, Terry said.
“It’s such an iconic, one-of-a-kind building with so much history attached to it, it warrants that we do everything we can to take it to the next level and preserve it as stewards of our culture and history,” Paler said.
In the past three years, the city’s plan to convert the structure into a transportation museum has undergone three revisions. Officials are now considering moving three Decatur police divisions — currently cramped at their City Hall offices — into two-thirds of the 5,000-square-foot building and using the rest for the museum.
The goal is to make the depot look as it did when it was in use in the early 1900s, complete with its original windows and wood, said Decatur architect Fred Underwood, who helped design the project.
“We plan to tear down the ceiling that’s there now to reveal its original ceiling and install cupolas with spires like it used to have,” Underwood said.
Officials hope giving the depot a new use will help connect the city’s historic downtown shopping to the Northwest area.
Having Decatur police’s traffic, investigations and school resource officers units headquartered inside permanently also could give added security to the precious artifacts stored in the museum area, Paler said.
But before any work can begin, the city has to purchase the property from its current owner, Decatur resident Wally Inscho.
Negotiations between Paler and Inscho are ongoing. Inscho wants $180,000 for the depot, but its last appraisal showed its value at $110,000, Paler said.
“We’re at a point, once we can buy it and clean it up, then the clock can start on the renovations,” Terry said.
The cleanup consists of removing lead-based paint from the building and safely disposing of it.
The ALDOT grant will not cover the expense, so the city will have to find money elsewhere.
“That’s why we want to get an independent firm’s estimate on the property, so the City Council can decide how they want to proceed,” Terry said.
A Nashville firm that specializes in detailed cost estimates for proposed projects could be tapped, said Blake McAnally, president of Decatur engineering firm Pugh Wright McAnally.
Terry said he hoped to get the council a resolution to hire the outside firm for its July 2 meeting.
“We don’t want overruns on this,” he said. “We want to do it right and keep it on budget.”