News Column

Price tag preventing city from saving historic depot

August 19, 2014

By Tyler Ellyson, Columbus Telegram, Neb.

Aug. 19--COLUMBUS -- The fate of the Union Pacific Railroad depot hasn't been sealed yet, but it's likely going to take a significant private investment to save the historic building.

City officials discussed the railroad's plan to tear down the more than 100-year-old building during Monday night's Columbus City Council meeting, reaffirming their stance that it's simply too costly to preserve the local landmark.

The train depot, which sits along the east side of 26th Avenue just north of the tracks, is scheduled to be demolished in early 2015.

Although the stone-and-brick building still is owned and used by Union Pacific, Councilwoman Beth Augustine-Schulte called for the update Monday night to "clear up rumors and misunderstandings" that surfaced on social media sites since The Telegram first reported the railroad's plan to raze the depot late last month.

City Administrator Joe Mangiamelli said city officials were made aware of Union Pacific's intentions to tear down the building last year, giving them time to prepare a potential plan to save the depot.

However, he said the depot must be relocated because its close proximity to the tracks makes the building unsuitable for other uses.

City officials did identify a potential site where the depot could be relocated -- just west of 23rd Avenue and south of 12th Street on land leased by the city -- and that plan was tentatively accepted by Union Pacific, according to Mangiamelli.

The major roadblock remained the cost to move the building -- an estimated $750,000 or more plus additional expenses for renovations and ongoing maintenance.

Mangiamelli said the city reached out to local investors then and after the recent Telegram article was published, but no proposals surfaced.

He plans to meet with Union Pacific representatives in the next couple of weeks to get more details on exactly when the building would be demolished and determine whether pieces of the historic depot could be salvaged.

Union Pacific won't tear down the depot until after its new $1.58 million building at 4511 11th St. is complete, spokesman Mark Davis said last month. That project is expected to be wrapped up in late fall.

Still, Mangiamelli said a private investor would need to come forward with a plan "as soon as possible" to save the current building.

Mayor Mike Moser reiterated that the city doesn't own the depot property, and thus has no control over what happens to the building.

"It's to their credit that they came to the city and gave us some warning that they were considering demolishing the depot," he said of Union Pacific.

The mayor also made it clear he doesn't support spending city dollars on an effort to relocate the depot, despite the sentimental attachment some local residents may have to the building.

"The city probably has the wherewithal to fix it, but how many things are we going to spend $1 million on to keep them from being torn down?" Moser said, adding that there must be a good municipal purpose to justify spending that much tax money.

Councilman Rich Jablonski echoed these comments, saying the city already sinks a significant amount of money into facilities that don't turn a profit, such as Pawnee Plunge Water Park and Quail Run Golf Course.

Jablonski asked why the city would want to add another property to this list.

"We can't save everything," he said.

According to Davis, Union Pacific is vacating the depot building because of its close proximity to the railroad tracks and deteriorating condition.

The current building has been in place since 1909, serving travelers until Union Pacific stopped carrying passengers in the 1970s.


(c)2014 the Columbus Telegram (Columbus, Neb.)

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Source: Columbus Telegram (NE)

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