A plan to build an outdoor venue to mimic the former train depot in Harlem has hit a few detours but is still on track.
Harlem officials intend to build a new city recreation building resembling the depot that was torn down decades ago, but they aren’t sure exactly what CSX Transportation will allow near the tracks and in the railroad’s right of way.
“They didn’t completely shoot it down right off the bat,” City Manager Jason Rizner said. “They asked for more detailed drawings that show distances from the center of the railroad tracks.”
Rizner said he’s in talks with CSX officials about what exactly they’ll allow near the tracks. Most of the proposed project is within CSX right-of-way.
The proposed $900,000 project includes an open-air pavilion on the site of the former depot, which was built in 1896 to serve passenger trains that stopped in the city. The depot was torn down in 1965, years after passenger service ended.
The view of the pavilion from the tracks is designed to look like the depot. It is slated to be built on the same site from which a city fire station moved from last year.
Mayor Bobby Culpepper said he hopes to include a stage in the pavilion for entertainment, city functions, parties and other events. He’s optimistic about talks with CSX.
“If you look around the state, CSX has allowed so many cities to use the areas where the depots were for something just like this,” Culpepper said. “I really don’t see that this is going to be a hold-up.”
Finding money for the project also is a challenge, now that officials have learned a $200,000 Transportation Enhancement grant awarded to the city from the Georgia Department of Transportation about a year ago can’t be used for new construction, only upgrades.
The TE funds, with matching city funds, can be spent to build restrooms in the former laundromat across the street in the city-owned parking lot. Sidewalks also are planned to connect the pavilion to Louisville Street and the Glenn Phillips Memorial Park behind Harlem Woman’s Club.
“We want to come back with another funding source and actually put the structure up,” Rizner said. “We’re keeping an eye out for that.”
TE projects typically take about 30 months to complete, so the long process of having a consultant approved and draw the more detailed plans shouldn’t lengthen the project. Construction and completion dates haven’t yet been set.
“It’s just a process to work through,” Rizner said. “We’ll get there eventually. It is just working through all the steps.”