Decatur officials, within the next week, will get final cost estimates on restoring the city’s 112-year-old railroad depot so they can decide whether to proceed with funding the project.
The city’s consultant, Hoar Project Management, will present the City Council with estimates at the council’s March 11 work session, Council President Gary Hammon said Friday.
The project has been in limbo the past four months. During that time, officials have discussed the most efficient and least expensive way to address the lead paint inside.
If Decatur decides to purchase the building, plans call for part of it to be used for a transportation museum and the remaining space to house Decatur police offices. The process of assessing lead paint removal had to start over when architectural plans were redrawn in December.
“We’re trying to get a solid number on what it will take before the city decides to go ahead with the purchase of the depot,” said Wally Terry, the city’s community and economic development director. “We don’t want any unknowns or surprises on this. We’d rather have a half-million dollars in savings at the end, rather than a half-million in cost overruns.”
Estimates to renovate the historic structure off Vine Street Northwest are close to $2 million, of which $720,000 can be covered with an Alabama Department of Transportation grant.
The Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority has pledged up to $550,000 — $200,000 up front and possibly another $350,000 during seven years. Another $200,000 is to be raised in private donations, leaving the city to cover an estimated $576,000, $486,000 of which could be financed with a loan.
Decatur hired Hoar Project Management of Huntsville to advise the city on the most cost-effective way to get rid of the lead paint, which ALDOT will not cover. The grant stipulates the city must deal with the lead paint at its own expense, Terry said.
“That’s the hang-up,” Hammon said. “We have to spend all this money on the lead paint abatement, then buy the building before we get anything from the $720,000 grant.”
Figuring out which walls come down and which stay is part of the process. If a wall covered in lead paint is demolished and removed, the city would not have to spend money on cleaning it up, Terry said. Other areas with lead paint may be covered with sheetrock and could meet the grant’s multiple options for lead paint abatement. Depending on how the lead paint is handled, those costs could fall into the construction budget rather than pre-construction, Terry said.
The process forced the city to file an extension with ALDOT because the grant required the work be bid by Jan. 13. Another deadline now looms: March 29, when the city must give depot owner Wally Inscho an answer on whether it will purchase the property. The deal must close by April 30, per its agreement with Inscho.
The city tentatively has agreed to purchase the depot for $175,000, $45,000 more than its last appraised value. Inscho said he has spent “substantially more than $100,000” on repairs since he purchased the depot in 1983 for $22,500. Terry said the city may have to extend that deadline again.
Today, council members will consider a $21,300 three-month contract with Hoar Project Management to cover its consultation services for the lead paint removal and manage the renovation. The firm began working on the depot last month and discovered a sewer pipe had collapsed underneath the building, another issue that must be dealt with, Terry said.
Officials continue to pursue the depot’s restoration because they see it as a linchpin for more economic revitalization downtown.
The property would connect the historic business district on Bank Street to Northwest Decatur historic neighborhoods across the railroad tracks. Those involved believe the depot could serve multiple functions as a tourist attraction for its historic significance, an educational resource for students and a civic use as a police substation.
Decatur architectural firm Underwood and Associates’ plans include refurbishing the clay roofing tiles, the return of its signature cupola and the use of as much of its original materials as possible.
Tiffeny Owens can be reached at 256-340-2440.
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