Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baudette has Vision Despite MN Budget Shortfall

From Friend, John Barbour, Architect, comes this article from "Finance and Commerce." http://finance-commerce.com/2010/12/baudette-depot-rehab-steams-ahead/

Baudette depot rehab steams ahead

Posted: 5:48 pm Fri, December 3, 2010
By Scott Carlson
Scott Carlson
Scott Carlson
Thirteen years after a handful of people saved the Baudette, Minn., depot from the wrecking ball, the town’s vacant train station is heading down the rehab track.

Anderson and Hammack Construction of Superior, Wis., has won the bidding to renovate the 87-year-old depot, which preservation activists envision as a historic interpretative center and space for public meetings and artisan studios and galleries.

Work on the $428,000 project is expected to start by January and finish by next July, said Phil Waugh, a project manager at Minneapolis-based Collaborative Design Group. The bulk of the work involves rehabbing and updating the interior of the 3,000-square-foot building, including putting in trim and molding to match the building’s circa 1920s-style architecture.

“The station master’s office and the ticket counter are still there, and we will get them restored,” Waugh said.
Built in 1923, the Baudette depot was a train stop for Canadian National Railways. The depot was in use until the mid-1980s.

The depot sat idle and became a target of vandals until the Depot Preservation Alliance of Baudette bought the building in 1997 for $1 from Canadian National, said Joanne Kellner, an alliance member.
“It [the depot] was a real blight on the town,” Kellner said. “If it hadn’t been for a handful of people in 1997, it would have been knocked down.

Baudette, which is home to about 1,100 residents, is in the Iron Range.
Waugh largely credits Kellner for cobbling together financial and administrative support from private donations, federal grants, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Lake of the Woods County.

For example, the project could have been derailed in September when bids came in higher than the roughly $360,000 the Depot Preservation Alliance had budgeted and raised, Waugh said. But Kellner responded to the challenge by submitting expedited applications and winning more grant money to make up the shortfall, he said.

Much of the supplemental money is coming from a federal Transportation Network grant.
“She [Kellner] has single-handedly pushed this project forward,” Waugh said.

For her part, the 67-year-old former office manager said she has taken a pragmatic course in the last three years to raise funds, drawing upon her work experience and taking some courses in grant writing.
Along the way, Kellner sought the help of Bemidji State University to get architecture students to study the depot and how to reuse it.

This past summer, the alliance sent out surveys to some 700 area residents, schools and businesses asking for ideas on how to reuse the depot, Kellner said. Providing artists a place to work and showcase their creations was among the top suggestions, she said.

“We want to take the old lobby and freight room and turn into an artisans’ marketplace,” Kellner said. “There will be space to hold art and cultural workshops, galleries, music jams as well as open to meeting, receptions and conferences.”

Kellner has witnessed the reinvention of old buildings in other Minnesota communities. For example, a resident of Grand Marais took an old Forest Service school building and converted it into a place for year-round arts classes. She also has visited old train depots, including one in Bemidji restored about 10 years ago for exhibits and special events.

Between renting out the Baudette depot’s second-floor apartment and picking up fees for artists’ studios, art gallery showings and other events, Kellner said she is confident the depot can support itself and become a tourist draw.

“I think we can make it a go of it,” Kellner said.

Still, the depot needs more money, including funds to carry out its operating budget, which could top $50,000 a year, Kellner said.

“These are tough times for political organizations to put up money for things that some consider to be frivolous,” Kellner admitted. “But I hope that when the county and city see that this [depot reuse] is successful, they will step up to the plate to keep it ongoing.”
Whether the city of Baudette will provide ongoing financial support for the depot’s staffing and operations remains to be seen.

“We are in favor of the restoration,” said Baudette council member Donald McKay. “It [ongoing support] is a tough decision to make until we get something in black and white and what is our money situation.”

McKay said the city doesn’t know yet what impact the state of Minnesota’s projected $6.2 billion projected revenue shortfall will have on local government aid to Baudette.

However, the council has expressed interest in assisting the depot project by donating an upgrade in sewer and water service to the train station, in-kind support that would be worth $10,000 to $15,000, he said.

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