The city’s new Amtrak station will now have retail and commercial office space on three levels in an effort to make the facility pay for itself, according to new designs unveiled Thursday night.
Architects from Clearscapes are nearing the finish line for designing the $73 million Raleigh Union Station, which will be built in the old Dillon Supply Viaduct building in downtown’s Warehouse District. They sought feedback on their latest drawings at a public meeting Thursday.
Amtrak’s crew base and offices will now be housed in an addition on the west side of the station, freeing up space in the main building. That means room for restaurants, shops and offices on three levels – one of which will have a rooftop view of the downtown skyline.
“We want this to be a vibrant and active space,” said architect Steve Schuster, adding that renting out a chunk of the building will also bring in revenue. “The goal is to have this building be economically viable long term, so it pays its own bills ... in ways that benefit rail passengers and create a destination for downtown.”
The station’s tenants likely won’t be determined anytime soon, but Schuster joked that he’d like to open a rooftop bar in his retirement.
The architects also released detailed drawings of the building and platforms, which show a major transformation from the current brick warehouse design. The renovations will create glass-paneled walls and sunlight through much of the building, while keeping remnants of old steel panels. “We also want to celebrate the rich industrial heritage,” Schuster said.
Passengers and other visitors will enter the station through a canopied “civic plaza” at the corner of Martin and West streets. The plaza could host events and will also serve passengers at the bus hub planned nearby.
“This plaza is not only for the train station, it’s a plaza for the transportation campus,” Schuster said.
Ideas for buses, parking
Consultants working for the city offered an update on the proposed bus station, which would be built after Union Station is complete. They’ve narrowed their search to four possible sites, generally in the blocks to the north of the train depot. The study is also looking at how to create enough parking to serve both facilities – the Union Station property only has room for short-term and handicapped parking.
The study found that Amtrak service will require 250 more spaces than the neighborhood offers now. “We don’t have a parking shortage today, but we know that’ll change in the future,” said Jeff Mann of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the company conducting the study.
Clearscapes will be developing updated cost estimates in the coming weeks, N.C. Department of Transportation engineer Craig Newton said.
The funding picture for Raleigh Union Station is much sounder than it was in June when the last design presentation was held. In October, DOT officials were able to reallocate $15 million from high-speed rail dollars, bringing the total funding available to $66.25 million – just short of the projected $73 million cost.
Newton said DOT is confident it can make up the difference before construction is set to begin next year.