07/18/10 — Residents get chance to take close look at Union Station plans

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Residents get chance to take close look at Union Station plans

By Aaron Moore
Published in News on July 18, 2010 1:50 AM

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Victoria Underwood listens to architect David Gall explain the plans for Union Station during a public information meeting at City Hall on Thursday.

After long planning, city officials held a public information session Thursday night to give Goldsboro residents their first close look at how exactly they hope to restore Union Station.

Architects discussed potential designs with the public, while Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan gave a tentative timeline for the project that could run up to 10 years, depending on how quickly the city can get funding from the state legislature and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The project is estimated to cost between $12 and $16 million, said Julie Thompson, the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. director.

Goldsboro citizens will be asked to put up 10 percent of the cost, she said, but much of the funding will come from an agreement the city has with the state Department of Transportation.

"I think that says a lot about the DOT and what they plan for Goldsboro," she added. "I think we're fortunate for Goldsboro to have the attention we're getting from ... the state."

The station would be restored with an Amtrack rail system, as well as a separate bus transfer station for Gateway and, eventually, Greyhound and Trailways.

The city has already torn down all the smaller buildings surrounding the main station, Logan said, leaving only a small metal storage building where the builders will be keeping supplies as they work on the project.

Lead architect David Gall spoke to the audience, explaining some of the other railroad restoration projects he has undertaken, and assuring them that these projects have provided economic boons to other North Carolina cities like Salisbury and Greensboro, as well as provided a venue for community events.

He then presented plans, pictures and blueprints to the audience showing renovations and animated projections of what Union Station will look like when the project is complete.

Among some of the interior improvements Gall mentioned were adding elevators and ramps to make the station entirely handicap-accessible, installing a fire-protection sprinkler system, building a kitchen so the station can be used to host community events and installing heating and air systems underground beneath the breezeway so as not to disrupt any of the building's historical facade.

"What we're all about at our office is to try to save as much of the original historic fabric of the building as we can," Gall said, explaining how he and his fellow architects will be using the building's original paint colors and tiling.

His goal, he said, is to win the project a Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification from the United States Green Building Council, which is awarded based on material recycling as well as energy and water conservation efforts.

Among these improvements, Ms. Logan added that there will be extra office space on the second floor of the station that may eventually become available to Goldsboro business-owners.

Land architect Bob Peter then took the audience through some of the exterior improvements he and his fellow land architect Susan Little are planning for the lawns and streets surrounding the station.

The station will include an 80-space parking lot, a permanent display of an old train engine and an office car, benches, decorative light fixtures and trash receptacles, deciduous flowering trees and evergreen shrubs, as well as a memorialized brick entrance area with bricks from the original station.

Some of the original bricks, Ms. Logan added, have been set aside and are available for Goldsboro citizens to purchase. There will also be upcoming opportunities with the Union Spirit Campaign for citizens to have parts of Union Station named after them.

The part of the project that will affect citizens most, however, will be the streetscaping that Peter and Little are planning.

The streets surrounding the station, including Walnut Street, George Street and North Carolina Avenue, will be completely re-paved, he said. The sidewalks will be replaced, the curbsides re-established, the crosswalks improved.

Peter also plans to build ramps to make the area more accessible, as well as redoing some structure with the storm drainage and extending front walks to their curbs.

As the city gets closer to this phase of the project, Logan said, they will conduct more small public meetings with local residents to hear concerns and make sure any disruption caused by the reconstruction is kept at a minimum.

However, many local residents at the information session said they have few concerns about the process and can't wait for it to be completed.

"I see nothing but positive effects," said Randy Sauls, who lives on the corner of George Street. "It'll improve the overall appearance. There are no trees around there. I'm looking forward to that."

Sauls' wife, Jewel, added that she frequently has to go to Charlotte for business, and she often has to have her husband drive her to Raleigh so she can take a train from there.

"To be able to walk one block and (take the train to Raleigh) would be so awesome," she said.

As far as the process of reconstructing the area and re-paving the roads around her house, however, Mrs. Sauls said only, "The good outweighs the bad."

Glenn Barwick and his wife, who live two blocks from the station, added that they believe the restoration will be an enormous benefit to Goldsboro.

"That's going to be wonderful," he said. "We like to go to Raleigh for events. We like to go to the orchestra, the theater."

Ernest Lewis, however, said he has mixed feelings about the restoration project.

Lewis owns a lot and a house near the station, and though he said he recognizes the potential of his property, he is uncertain whether he wants to invest in it with the station's completion so far off.

"(The station's) good, but it's a long, drawn-out process," he said. "We're talking 10 years. At my age, that's a long time."

Lewis said he remembers last visiting the station when he was seven years old -- 63 years ago.

Ms. Logan, however, said that 10 years is still not a definite time frame.

The city, she said, is striving to secure the funding for the station all at once, which would enable the builders to take on different phases of the restoration simultaneously, significantly shortening the time the project would take.

"I think the message we're trying to send the legislature when we go up there is that when we have the money, the station will be ready," she said.