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Take a look at Raleigh’s new Union Station as it takes shape

Sneak Peak: A look inside Raleigh's new Union Station

Take a video tour of the new Union Station and The Dillon, a transportation hub under construction in the Warehouse District of downtown Raleigh, N.C.
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Take a video tour of the new Union Station and The Dillon, a transportation hub under construction in the Warehouse District of downtown Raleigh, N.C.

The transit hub the city is building in downtown Raleigh is starting to look more like a defining landmark and less like a giant birdcage.

The city government, with financial help from the state and federal government, is building an $80 million transit hub called Union Station off Martin Street on downtown Raleigh’s west side. Construction crews recently installed the “bones” of the building and erected a large brick wall along the station’s northern façade to match the red-brick-clad Warehouse District.

The project is expected to bring more people to the Warehouse District, which was mostly full of old warehouses and underutilized properties until Citrix opened its 4-story building in 2014. Developers now consider the district – roughly defined as the land between Dawson Street and the Boylan Heights neighborhood – to be among the city’s most promising.

The station is on pace to open early next year, just a few months before private developer Kane Reality opens a 17-story tower across West Street. Kane, at the encouragement of city leaders, has designed his building with retail on the west side to complement the station. And others plan to follow suit.

Between Union Station and Citrix, GoTriangle hopes to redevelop an old warehouse into a mixed-use tower that serves as a bus station on the ground floor, according to Jeff Mann, GoTriangle’s general manager. The idea is to create a “multi-modal” campus, he said.

The details of the redevelopment still need to be worked out, Mann said. The company would likely sell development rights while retaining ownership of the site, which currently houses Five Star Asian restaurant.

GoTriangle hopes to iron out the details of the redevelopment plans and start construction within the next 36 months. “We want to create a warm, inviting space” atop the bus station, Mann said.

With construction on Union Station now 65 percent finished, according to city planners, here’s a rundown of what’s to come.

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Local dignitaries and media tour Raleigh's Union Station, a transportation hub under construction in the warehouse district, Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

What purpose will it serve?

The Raleigh train station on Cabarrus Street is expected to shift its operations to Union Station when Union opens in early 2018. That means Amtrak customers will need to go to the three-story Martin Street station to catch their trains, rather than the current one-story station that looks like a house.

City leaders also want to incorporate office, retail and dining space into the new station.

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An artist's rendering of Raleigh's Union Station. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

What’s going inside?

The station will have three floors.

On the first, city leaders want to bring in a vendor who can provide “grab-and-go” meals for people getting on or off the train. On the second floor, city leaders would like a “cool” business tenant. And on the third floor, which has the best views of downtown Raleigh, they want a distinctive restaurant.

The council will have the final say over who goes in the Union Station spaces, but they want help finding proper tenants. In March, the city solicited offers from asset management firms and is currently reviewing three bids. City staff will likely recommend one of them to the City Council in June, said David Eatman, the city’s transit administrator.

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A view of downtown seen during a tour of Raleigh's Union Station Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

What needs to be done?

Construction crews are mostly finished working on excavation, foundation and utility work, according to Kelly Ham, a construction project engineer. She said work crews still need to complete a tunnel to the station, as well as the train platform, the concourse, the station terminal building and a public plaza where buses and taxis can pick up travelers.

The City Council is also expected to make some final decisions on the inner decor of the station.

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Raleigh city manager Ruffin Hall, left, talks with city council member Bonner Gaylord during a tour of Raleigh's Union Station Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

What will happen to the old station?

The train station that sits on Cabarrus Street near Boylan Heights is likely to sit there for a while before being demolished, according to Glenn Ervin, the project engineer. It’s owned by the North Carolina Railroad, which is contractually obligated to demolish it, Ervin said.

“Long term, an additional H-Line track (main line) will be added which would require the station to be removed,” he said in an email.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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