Valparaiso residents hope to save historic train depot

2012-09-17T18:55:00Z 2014-04-12T16:49:14Z Valparaiso residents hope to save historic train depotSUSAN EMERY Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 17, 2012 6:55 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | City officials and residents are hoping to save the shuttered train depot along the Canadian National tracks from demolition.

About 20 residents attended Monday's meeting of the Valparaiso Historic Preservation Commission at City Hall to brainstorm new sites and uses for the building.

The discussion may be moot, however, if the city can't find someone to purchase and move the century-old depot at the corner of Calumet Avenue and Bush Street.

Valparaiso Planning Director Tyler Kent said the city received notice from the railroad that it was seeking to demolish the 3,000-square-foot structure, which triggered the historic commission meeting.

A preservation ordinance provides for a demolition delay of up to 60 days to seek ways of saving any structure of historical significance.

Nick Mandich, U.S. facilities supervisor with Canadian National, said whoever purchases the building would have to pay about $25,000 for asbestos removal, and between $1,000 and $1,500 a day for the required track closure while the building is moved.

These costs are in addition to the estimated $50,000 to $60,000 to move the depot. Other costs include constructing a new foundation for the depot and continued maintenance of the building.

Mandich said the railroad has set Oct. 16 as the deadline for the city to make a decision. A purchase price for the building has not been determined, but an estimate will be submitted to the city by Friday.

Tom Healey, attorney for the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, which owns the property, said it was unlikely the deadline would be extended.

The railroad has worked with other cities wanting to acquire depots and the funding often does not materialize, he said.

“Extensions have just led to more extensions,” Healey said. “We've seen things come right up to the line and then get pulled back. It usually doesn't wind up in something getting done.”

Several residents who spoke at the meeting cited other communities that had effectively purchased and refurbished historic depots into restaurants or community centers. They urged the railroad to consider working with Valparaiso to preserve the depot as part of the company's public relations and goodwill efforts.

Many residents had fond memories of the depot, including Jacki Stutzman, who recalled going there as a child.

“My dad was a train buff and we'd watch the steam trains go by,” she said. “They just want to tear it down, and we can't let that happen.”

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