The dingy, decrepit Amtrak station on Gaynor Avenue in North Charleston will become a lively transportation hub featuring food, art and a favorable first impression of the area, officials said Monday night.
"We're looking at it as an economic development opportunity," said Rhett Reidenbach, a vice-president with project consultant Davis & Floyd.
If things go as planned, year-long construction of the $14 million project will begin in the fall of next year.
First, though, the original west Montague Avenue location for the project where $4 million was spent must be sold to recoup costs. That venue was scrapped when it was learned that an extra $20 million would be needed to make it work for a passenger train station, officials said.
The situation developed when CSX rail would not approve the passenger platform needed for an Amtrak station at the west Montague location, officials said.
"It's unusual. This doesn't happen that often," said CARTA Executive Director Christine Wilkinson.
She said it was "fortunate" to have reached a solution to the dilemma with the approval of the Federal Transit Administration, which is providing the lion's share of the funding for the project.
CSX said that it needed to have its main line always open for its adjoining Bennett Yard, which would have required construction of a side track on west Montague. Officials learned, though, that a side track was prohibitively expensive because of work it would require on the Interstate 526 bridge over Dorchester Road.
The explanation of what went wrong with the first location for the project was offered to a crowd of about 50 people who gathered in North Charleston to hear about CARTA plans for the station on Gaynor Avenue.
Only a handful of people spoke out about the plan to build a new train station there and demolish the old one. No one was opposed.
Officials said the 33,000-square-foot project is intended to recall the nation's grand train stations, particularly Union Station, a former Charleston landmark on Morrison Drive that burned decades ago.
Some residents of the historic Liberty Hill neighborhood have expressed concern about how the project might affect them.
The 78-percent federally-funded work will create a new hub for CARTA, Amtrak and intercity bus service at the current site of the train station.
CARTA administrative headquarters will move from the Charleston Visitors Center complex to the new Gaynor Avenue facility, whose second floor would include a 2,175- square-foot CARTA office suite and a 520-square-foot CARTA conference room.
The first floor would include 954 square feet for Southeastern Stages and 1,875 square feet for a restaurant and dining hall.
"It's going to be like a Food Court," Reidenbach said.
There would be 1,990 square feet for Amtrak offices, and 325 square feet for Amtrak seating.
In addition, the first floor would have a 1,485-square-foot meeting room and about 2,700 square feet of leasable space.
There will be "vibrant" public spaces, local and public art displays and a presentation of the station history and that of the Liberty Hill community, officials said.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711
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