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Pere Marquette Union Station Depot $6.4 Million Renovation Is A Go

Project Back On Track After City Steps Up to National Park Service Demand

December 10, 2006       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Pere Marquette Union Station will be restored to its Victorian Age splendor as it was depicted in this 1904 photo.
Charles Curtiss heads the non-profit Great Lakes Center Foundation that is developing the depot for renewed community use.

The buses will roll into and out of Bay City's new downtown welcome center in about a year and a half.

That appears to be the scenario shaping up for the new headquarters of the Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Bay Area Community Foundation.

Bids will be taken Wednesday, Dec. 20 for renovation of the old Pere Marquette Union Station depot, according to the developer, Charles Curtiss, president of Great Lakes Center Foundation.

The 9,000 square foot depot, a classic arts and crafts design dating to 1904, will be renovated to house both community offices and provide a focal point for tourism.

Architect Ilene Tyler, of Quinn Evans, Ann Arbor, was in town last week and conducted a walk-through of the building for about 50 representatives of prospective contractors.

The estimated $6.4 million project was set back about a year by initial reluctance of the City of Bay City to guarantee the National Park Service that the historic integrity of the depot is maintained for 50 years.

That guarantee has been met and the project is good to go, according to Mr. Curtiss.

Architects are looking to award bids this spring and begin construction immediately with completion expected in 12-15 months, or in time for the 2008 tourism season.

Work is already substantially complete on a brick and stone entrance from Adams Street that will be landscaped with a $200,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Bay City. The Rotary project also will include a mini-park and historic kiosk on the order of others the club has installed at Center and Saginaw and at the foot of Third Street near Waterfall Park, according to Rotary President Gena Gates.

Mr. Curtiss has stitched together a complicated funding package including donations, tax credits and grants from government agencies to complete the project.

The Bay County Growth Alliance (BCGA) is lending about $2 million and will receive mortgages on several downtown properties, according to Cliff VanDyke, BCGA president.

Fifth Third Bank is buying about $4 million in New Markets Tax Credits bolstered by a $700,000 federal T-21 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Buses will return to the site for the first time since Greyhound used it in 1969. Shirley Roberts, executive director of the Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, expects 500-600 buses a year to use the welcome center, a facet important to receiving grant funding.

The depot was transformed from a historic train station in 1949 by Henry Briggs, New York Central Railroad executive, who was married to Peggy Sharpe, daughter of Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward M. Sharpe of Bay City.

Touted as one of the first urban shopping centers, the depot anchored modern stores fronting on Fifth Avenue and Adams Street. These were occupied by the A&P and National food stores and the Woolworth Co. along with other retail uses. The building was torn down in the 1980s but the old depot, said still solid although more than a century old, remains and will serve the community into the future in a new way.###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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