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Fri Mar 4 09:55:33 EST 2011
Station to have 'tremendous' rebirth
Plans for the renewed Pulaski Railway Station, set to be dedicated in June, include a visitors center and a bike rental and repair shop.
Photos by MATT GENTRY The Roanoke Times
Caption: Elizabeth Chitwood and John White of the Pulaski Department of Economic Development stand on the property of the Pulaski Railway Station. Landscaping at the property will begin soon and an old caboose and signal house will be featured. The building's formal dedication is planned for June 11. | Amy Matzke-Fawcett
amy.matzke-fawcett at roanoke.com, 381-1674
PULASKI -- With the sun shining, workers scrubbed windows to remove some of the last traces of grime and construction dust.
It's a fitting image for the Pulaski Railway Station, where a renovation will soon be completed more than two years after a fire nearly destroyed it. The station is expected to open this month for small events, although the formal opening isn't until June.
"We heard right off that it was such a loss to the community," said Town Manager John Hawley. "The rebirth of the train station is tremendous."
Although the building will be restored to look much the same as before the fire, its use will be much different.
Before the November 2008 fire, the building served as the Raymond F. Ratcliffe Museum, with railroad and town memorabilia decorating the walls.
When the building reopens, instead of a museum, the space will serve as a meeting space seating 70 to 80 people available for rental, Pulaski Bikes LLC and a satellite visitor's center.
The town council considered seeking tax credits for restoring the building because of its historic significance, but voted 5-1 during Tuesday's meeting to not pursue the credits. Construction is estimated to cost $1.2 million, with $1.15 million of the project paid for by insurance.
It is unclear the exact amount of the credits, Hawley said.
Plans call for the museum to move to a new 10,000-square-foot space that's yet to be built approved by town council in September 2008.
"The new museum was planned before the fire, the amount of work that had to go into that project pushed it back," Hawley said.
The museum, with an estimated price tag of $650,000, will be paid for through Virginia Department of Transportation grants.
Plans had called for the museum to be complete by July, which is now the target date for starting construction, Hawley said.
The museum will be filled with objects saved from the railway station fire, many of which are this week on the way to Chicago for restoration through Oppenheimer International Arts and the O'Connell International Arts, said John White, director of the Pulaski Department of Economic Development.
"Some of these photos are priceless," White said. "We have two or three aerials of the community that we wouldn't be able to replace."
Although some photos were lost or severely damaged in the fire, scanned copies remain due to a book on Pulaski from the "Images of America" series.
"It was just lucky we'd done that," White said.
The rebuilt railway station includes many of the original details, such as restored arched doorways, fireplaces and beadboard walls, but new features including a small kitchen and audiovisual equipment.
"We're going to try to live in it for awhile, and see what the needs of the groups are," White said. "We're still working on the rental structure and fees."
The certificate of occupancy should come this month with events scheduled throughout the spring, Hawley said.
The former railway station will be home to a new business venture, Pulaski Bikes. The area where the store will sit is what was originally the baggage area of the station added around 1914 or 1915, will rent and repair bicycles, White said.
A lease is currently being worked out for the bicycle shop, Hawley said, but expects the shop to open in April.
Owner Mike McMillion was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.
The shop will also provide a visitors center for the downtown area, with brochures and information about local events and attractions, White said.
"We're all invested in this building," White said. "We think it's really important to tell the story of the town, of the railroad and of this building."
The building's formal dedication won't take place until June 11, a date which has historic significance to the structure.
The town acquired the building in the early 1990s after years of disuse, restoring the building to use as a museum. A dedication ceremony for the first reopening of the train station was held on June 11, 1994, with the Norfolk and Western 611 train, White said.
The earliest sections of the railway station were built around 1888, with renovations that came later, said White. The town was originally a destination for tourists who wanted to take advantage of nearby hot springs and the cool mountain air, he said.
"Tourism has been at the heart of this little town forever," White said.
Officials hope the restored railway depot, along with a new museum and access to the New River Trail, will again draw tourists to town.
And starting in May, the town's farmers market will be held at the station. Since the fire, the market has been held at the Maple Shade shopping center across the street.
As of: March 4, 2011
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