(pictured above: Rence Callahan speaks to the meeting.)
For the past several decades, the building, which is on National Register of Historic Places, had been used as an automobile garage, before the city purchased it in 2012 with intentions to rehab it as a transportation hub that will offer rail and bus service.
The city held a public forum Tuesday night at the Ishi Pentecostal Temple, which is on Excelsior Street and adjacent to Union Station. Rence Callahan of the architectural firm Walter Robbs Callahan and Pierce discussed renovation plans and sought input from a crowd of about two dozen residents on how free space in and around Union Station could be used.
Callahan said initially, the station will serve as a regional bus hub, most likely for PART (Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation) vehicles.
“In the foreseeable future there will not be any trains coming in,” Callahan said. “We need to think about that possibility down the line. It is not going to be a relocation of the downtown transit center but there could be transfers.”
Callahan kicked-off the forum by showing old photos and floor plans of the original Union Station, a three-story building that was built in 1926.
On the bottom level of the 12,000-square-foot building was the loading area for freight and passengers boarding the trains. The middle floor, which Callahan said was in good condition, held office space and a kitchen area. The top floor, which has two entrances, still has the original center ticket station and concession area.
“This will be the target area for restoration. A lot of elements will be preserved, even the seats that are out in the waiting area will be restored,” Callahan said. “The building plan is really restoring the elements back to what they were compared to a lot of rebuilding.”
A number of residents said that they would like to see the new Union Station – which ceased to exist as a train station in 1967 – become an asset to the surrounding community. While ideas like having a museum, a library, and a welcome center for nearby Winston-Salem State University were tossed around, Phillip Carter suggested that part of the building be used as a community resource center.
“A learning center and some computer labs for the community – some resources that might help those who need help with resumes and so forth,” said Carter.
Marva Reid likes the idea of a museum.
“I remember as a child coming here quite a bit. We have lost so much of our history, and I think that it is really important to us in this area,” she said.
Jimmy Boyd said that whatever is done with the free space at the station should be to the benefit of “the youth of tomorrow and the elderly who have many yesterdays.”
“We should have something that is right in our arm reach, elbow-reach, right here in our community. I want to be able to see our youth benefit from this,” Boyd said. “I want them to come and know what the building was.”
Kevin Byers said that the station needs to be a place where residents, both young and old, come to gain knowledge and skills they can use to better themselves.
“Start businesses, this community needs businesses and economic development. It needs some kind of jump start to get the community up and going,” he said. “We need better prepared people to start better businesses.”
Another meeting is slated, during which architects will showcase possible designs for the building. The designs will be based on the feedback received from the forum.