The Lansing Board of Water & Light this week began extensive restoration of the historic, 108-year-old railroad depot in Lansing’s REO Town. The depot rests on the site of the BWL’s planned cogeneration facility, scheduled to go online in July 2013. As part of its urban redevelopment plans for REO Town, the BWL will restore and preserve the former Grand Trunk Western depot.
“This old depot has been a part of, and witness to, history,” said BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark. “Its charm remains intact despite being in heavy disrepair. We intend to again make the depot a focal point in this historic part of Lansing.” Lark noted that the depot was the site of at least one presidential visit – during a whistle-stop campaign by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976.
“On this same property, auto pioneer Ransom E. Olds founded his Reo Truck Company at the turn of the 20th century,” Lark said. “Generations of soldiers and sailors no doubt left for duty from this train depot. If any old structure in Lansing is deserving of restoration, it’s this one.”
The depot, abandoned for several years, is on both the U.S. and Michigan Register of Historic Sites. The first stage of restoration will be on the building’s exterior. Among other things, its terra cotta tile roofing will be replaced with materials in keeping with historical preservation guidelines. Exterior renovations should be completed by January 2012. Interior restoration will continue through 2012 and into 2013.
Concurrent with interior restoration, the depot will serve as construction offices for the general contractor and others. This will result in money savings, because construction trailers typical to construction projects will be reduced.
Granger Construction Co. of Lansing is the exterior restoration’s general contractor. The depot restoration is budgeted for $2.5 million, which is part of the $182 million project to build a new natural gas-fired, combined cycle cogeneration facility.
Economic development leaders hail the project as an important economic catalyst to the Lansing region. The 18-month construction phase will create more than 1,000 local jobs. Once the facility goes on line in 2013, it will house 180 BWL employees.