Union Station needs millions in repairs

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The city is looking for several million dollars to fix and upgrade historic Union Station.

A study done by Browning Day Mulls Dierdorf Architects identified $3.7 million in structural repairs and another $3.8 million in improvements..

The city has already spent $725,000 on emergency repairs, which included reinforcing a south wall which caved in during December 2012. That prompted the study of the entire four-block long structure which includes the bus/train terminal, an IMPD station, the Crowne Plaza hotel and a restaurant.

BDMD Principal Greg Jacoby said the study found "the structure is fine. It's the envelope which needs some help. The roof needs repair - the roof of the train house, the roof of the train shed...the rest of the work can be looked at as brick repair. A lot of brick needs to be taken out and put in place."

Adam Thies, director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, said the repair list doesn't come as a surprise given the two-dozen trains that pass thru Union Station each day (all but two are freight trains.)

"Any building that has trains running through it on a regular basis is going to see vibrations, see the impact and we need to stay on top of that," Thies said.

Thies and Jacoby led members of the media on a tour of the building.

Pointing to the top of the historic Head House, Jacoby said, "that chimney is believed hit by lightning and it loosened some of the bricks."

Walking through the Crowne Plaza, he pointed to the ceilings in the atrium saying there was "hail damage and deterioration of the skylights that run the length of Union Station."

Inside the terminal, workers were attaching screens to the ceiling to catch small pieces of brick or concrete that might drop down.

Thies said besides addressing repairs the city also hoped to make improvements to the Greyhound and Amtrak terminal, which sees hundreds of people each day.

"The décor is probably not the quality it should be, the lighting, the restrooms, all those things," he said.

Marilee Ochoa, a Greyhound bus passenger on her way home to Peoria, said, "I see a lot of improvement now. They've taken away the old wooden benches and put in new seating and they're doing a lot of structural support work. It's starting to look a lot better."

Zella Cook (pictured below), on her way to Chicago, said, "I feel safe, but it could be cleaner, more modernized, like the restrooms. They're clean but they could use hooks to hang your purse or something like that. I just came from Dayton, Ohio where there's a new station and the contrast is pretty stark."

The challenge is finding the money. According to DMD, even with the building nearly fully leased, it still cost the city roughly $2.3 million to maintain and run Union Station in 2013.

It now needs several million dollars on top of that.

"We want to chase whatever money we can find before we have to track down any additional city money but we're not going to wait on the repairs we think are essential to make," said Thies.

He said the money for emergency repairs will likely come from the downtown TIF, adding the city will also seek grants and consider selling a portion of Union Station, specifically the Greyhound Bus station.

Greyhound has been on a month-to-month lease for two years, the city says by its own choice.