“Explore, Experience, Embark” Celebration marks public’s first return to renovated icon since 1971
ST. PAUL, Minn.—(Dec. 8, 2012)—Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority (RCRRA) today commemorated the end of construction of the $243 million historic restoration of the 90-year old Union Depot train station and the return of transportation services to the iconic structure.
The “Explore. Experience. Embark. The Journey Begins Again” community celebration is the first time since 1971 that the public has been able to walk through the historic 27,000-square-foot waiting room that welcomed immigrants settling in Minnesota, orphans sent westward to new homes, soldiers departing or returning from war, travelers, redcaps and porters who worked at the Union Depot and many more. The last passenger train left Union Depot in 1971, and in 1974, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Festivities for the free daylong December 8 celebration include tours of the historic Union Depot, historical performances and reenactments by Bedlam Theatre, artists, music, dancing, food from Lowertown restaurants and an information fair showcasing transportation features of Union Depot.
December 8 also marks the first day that Metro Transit buses arrive and depart from Union Depot, with some 300 arrivals and departures scheduled every weekday. In addition, in early 2013 Jefferson Regional Bus Lines will move its St. Paul station to Union Depot. Later that year One on One Bicycle Studio will open a state-of-the-art bike center and Amtrak will relocate all passenger activity from its current station in the Midway area of St. Paul to Union Depot. In 2014, Central Corridor Light Rail—the Green Line—will serve Union Depot on Fourth Street.
“Today we celebrate an important milestone for Union Depot,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough, chair of the RCRRA. “Construction is completed, the public again has access to this grand neoclassical structure, and Union Depot will return to its original purpose of being a regional destination and transportation hub.”
Restoration of the near century-old depot, located on a 33-acre site along the Mississippi River, included returning its original 1920s color scheme through complete repainting and plaster restoration of the waiting room and head house; reconstruction of the carriageway; and returning the Fourth Street entrance to its original design. In addition, new construction involved rebuilding the train deck and tracks and building a new multilevel passenger drop-off entrance with ticketing and baggage counters.
Mortenson, design-build contractor for Union Depot, with URS Corporation and HGA Architects, worked to assure that all aspects of the project met historic guidelines of the State Historical Preservation Office and Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission.
“We are honored to have the privilege to restore Union Depot to its original grandeur,” said Dan Mehls, Vice President, Mortenson. “Workers on this site recognized the significance of their work in preserving historic memories and laying the groundwork for future growth and development in the Lowertown neighborhood.”
In summer 2012, RCRRA contracted with national retail management company, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to manage Union Depot operations and lease commercial retail space. JLL currently operates historic train stations in Chicago, New York and Washington, D. C., and is in the midst of planning for Union Depot’s future.
“This site, in the heart of the lively artist and entertainment district of Lowertown, offers businesses an opportunity to interact with thousands of residents, employees and visitors, as well as passengers arriving daily on mass transit,” said Rick Balow, JLL manager of Union Depot. “Union Depot will be a vibrant destination offering food, fun and enjoyment for all.”
In addition, the historic building will soon be the site of some $1.25 million in public art, commissioned from America’s best public art innovators. Among the public art installations, which will be installed in 2013, will be a suspended kinetic sculpture in the Kellogg Boulevard passenger entrance and historical wall murals in the waiting room that celebrate the site’s multicultural roots.
RCRRA executives are planning a series of celebrations 2013 to mark milestones of the return of Union Depot as a regional transportation hub.
“We will be recognizing each transforming event in Union Depot’s new life as the Living Room of Lowertown St. Paul, from the opening of the bike station to the arrival of Amtrak and Green Line LRT trains,” McDonough said. “When you’re in St. Paul, you are going to want to stop by and see us.”