Harlem officials intend for a new city recreation building to resemble the site’s original structure – a train depot that was torn down decades ago.
When the Harlem fire station on South Hicks Street is moved to the city’s new public safety building, plans are to replace it with an open-air pavilion. The side facade facing the railroad tracks will mimic the railroad depot that was there for about 70 years.
“So that if you come from that direction (of the railroad tracks), what you see looks just like the old railroad depot is back,” Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper said.
The depot was built in 1896, when Georgia Railroad passenger trains frequently came through and stopped in the city. The depot was torn down in 1965.
The city recently received a $200,000 Transportation Enhancement grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation. The total estimated cost is about $900,000, said Harlem City Manager Jason Rizner.
Rizner said the general concept of the project is to create a facility for community events and an outdoor entertainment venue.
“Our hope is that we can afford to build a stage and an area for people to perform so we can have functions there as well as ... farmer’s markets and other things right in the middle of town,” Culpepper said.
The project also calls for restrooms to be built in the former laundromat across the street in the city-owned parking lot. Sidewalks will connect the pavilion to Louisville Street and the recently renovated Glenn Phillips Memorial Park behind the Harlem Woman’s Club.
“Our main focus is to bring people downtown; to have functions downtown so that they support the businesses that are there, and have a walkable community downtown,” Culpepper said.
Rizner said city officials also have allocated some funds from the 2011-2016 1-percent sales tax funds to match and supplement the DOT grant.
City officials will begin meeting with DOT officials this fall to finalize project details.
No firm timeline has been established. But construction cannot start until after the fire station is moved to the new public safety building.
Rizner said the project might have to be constructed in phases.
Future additions to the pavilion will depend on its use.
“Who knows,” Culpepper said. “You never know how something is going to grow and transform.”