Raleigh’s Union Station on track for more than rail crowd

 In June 2018

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 Raleigh officials have called the new Union Station “a front door to the city.” STV and Raleigh-based Clearscapes were project architects.

Raleigh leaders are hoping a new train station in the city’s up-and-coming Warehouse District will attract more than just rail passengers. Construction on the 26,000-square-foot Union Station was largely completed in April, and trains will begin rolling into the station later this summer.

Built at the site of the former Dillon Supply warehouse, the station replaces a nearby Amtrak station on Cabarrus Street, where about 155,000 passengers pass through annually. The 9,200-square-foot waiting area is five times bigger than the existing station, accommodating growth as Amtrak and the N.C. Department of Transportation add a fourth daily round-trip service between Raleigh and Charlotte, beginning June 4. The Raleigh station also serves Amtrak’s daily passenger train that runs from New York to Miami.

Construction on the $110 million project was started in January 2016 by a joint venture of Skanska and Raleigh-based Clancy & Theys and Holt Brothers Construction. The site had been mostly vacant since 2005. The station has the first level-boarding area in the state, allowing safer access for passengers with wheelchairs and strollers.

Union Station includes more than 14,000 square feet of space on three levels for offices, retail shops and restaurants, plus indoor and outdoor space for civic events. On the third floor, an 1,800-square-foot patio provides a skyline view of downtown. Though no tenants had been signed as of mid-May, showings have been brisk, says David Eatman, Raleigh’s transit administrator.

Talk of building a train station in the area started in the ’90s.

“What really gave the project traction was when the first TIGER grant was received in 2012,” Eatman says, referring to the first $21 million installment of more than $70 million of federal funding the project was awarded. Much of the money was pledged during former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx’s term as U.S. transportation secretary from 2013-17.

While the station will offer local bus service as soon as it opens, within five to seven years a second construction phase could add six to 10 bus bays, complementing the city’s existing 22-bay station. Additional mixed-use space with retail also is planned, and the new station already incorporates some infrastructure for future commuter rail, which could launch as soon as 2027.

Union Station joins The Dillon, the 18-story mixed-use project developed by Kane Realty, and the 20,000-square-foot Morgan Street Food Hall, expected to open this summer, as innovative, adaptive-reuse projects helping to reshape the area.

“It is a building [that] will spawn greater development, a more bustling and vital urban center, and it will be a destination,” Joe McHugh, Amtrak’s vice president of state supported services, said at an April dedication ceremony. “It will be a … place for people to go to do more than catch trains.”

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