Hamilton train depot move spurs some concerns

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

City Manager suggests Council prioritize some aspects of restoration of the depot’s two buildings

Hamilton has a deadline to move the former CSX train depot on Martin Luther King Boulevard several hundred feet north, with a budget of $2 million.

It appears the project could miss that deadline, and the city could spend all $2 million before basic restoration elements are completed.

CSX Railroad asked the city to move the two structures on MLK Boulevard by May 31, but Director of Engineering Rich Engle said it’s unlikely they will meet the deadline, but “we will be well underway in May to get the buildings moved.”

The city decided about a year ago to save and relocate the brick former train depot to the corner of Maple Avenue and MLK Boulevard. It consists of two main structures. Eventually, City Council allocated $2 million to move and restore historic parts of the two structures, including windows, doors, roof, and tin ceiling tiles.

Once the structures are moved onto a new foundation, the building is put into a “white box” condition where a restaurant, bar or some other business could complete business-specific interior upgrades and occupy it.

Firm and estimated costs are close to $1.9 million. But that’s not all of the anticipated work, like a new roof, installing and extending utilities, pouring concrete floors, and installing the historic tin ceiling panels.

City Manager Joshua Smith told the council that, based on Director of Engineering Rich Engle’s numbers, it will cost roughly $1 million to move the two structures and place them on a new foundation. That means they’ll have another $1 million to improve the building.

“That’s where I think Council’s going to have to make some policy decisions,” Smith said. “What’s more important, a roof or a parking lot? Windows or something else? We have to itemize everything that’s outstanding and prioritize from there and figure out what the remaining balance will get us to.”

Councilmember Carla Fiehrer said while the number of costs that are still only estimates concerns her, she just doesn’t like the location, and can’t imagine a business wanting to locate there because of the trains that pass by. She doesn’t think someone will want to be fewer than 300 feet from a set of tracks where CSX trains run around 60 times a day.

“I know everybody thinks I don’t want to save this building, and well everybody, you’re wrong. That’s not the case. The way we’re doing it is what bothers me,” she said.

Local businesses have operated near the railroad tracks, including McDonald’s, and Amp Brewery is planning to open next year not far from the tracks on Maple Avenue.

Mayor Pat Moeller said he’d like the staff “to continue to look at these and continue to shave them, to see where that takes us.”

“I’m looking at what we can do to cost contain here,” he said. “We want to do basic service as well, but this is something that’s history and I just think we have to give it every smart opportunity we can to see what we can do with this.”

Moeller hopes the new location would spur some interest “because you start getting more of a vision when it’s on Maple Avenue, as you try and repurpose and change all of Maple Avenue than where it is right now.”

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