Demolition Starts on $243M Union Depot Renovation

Mortenson Construction will begin demolition at St. Paul's Union Depot following a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday-the next step in a $243 million project.

Union Depot's facelift will be underway on Tuesday, when construction crews begin demolition on the downtown St. Paul project to make room for train tracks and bus lanes.

Mortenson Construction will begin demolition following a groundbreaking ceremony-the next step in a $243 million project that is expected to create thousands of jobs.

Union Depot is located in downtown St. Paul's historic Lowertown area, a vibrant neighborhood along the Mississippi River. It was built between 1918 and 1923 on the site of an earlier train station, which was destroyed by fire in 1915.

The southern part of the property was occupied and used by the U.S. Postal Service, but it has since been purchased for the renovation. The northern section contains condos and restaurants, which will remain following the construction.

Josh Olson, planning specialist for the Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority, said in a Thursday phone interview that Amtrak will relocate from its existing Midway location to Union Depot at the end of 2012, when construction is complete. At that time, Jefferson Lines, Greyhound, and Metro Transit buses are also expected to begin servicing the depot.

In 2014, the Central Corridor light-rail line “will arrive by our front door,” Olson said. Future plans include a handful of other transit lines that are still in the planning phase, including the Red Rock Corridor, the Gateway Corridor, and more. Learn more about the initial plans for each of the routes from the Counties Transit Improvement Board.

Perhaps the most anticipated development, however, is the potential high-speed rail to Chicago. The Union Depot project received a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in October. At the time, Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum said that the grant came from a high-speed passenger-rail program-an indication that “the Union Depot is Minnesota's link to the Midwest high-speed rail network.”

Olson said that it is too early to project when the additional corridors or the high-speed rail will begin servicing Union Depot.

The project is expected to generate 3,000 jobs over the two-year construction period, with a peak on-site work force of 300-95 percent of which is expected to comprise local workers. According to Olson, the overall cost of the project-including land acquisition costs-is around $243 million, while the construction cost is roughly $150 million.

Minneapolis-based M.A. Mortenson Company was chosen in December 2009 to lead the renovation, which will seek Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Silver certification, a designation meant to guide and distinguish environmentally friendly projects. The project also received $35 million in federal stimulus funds in February.

Olson said that about $140 million has been secured so far through federal and state grants, and other money will come from the Ramsey County Rail Authority and other sources, including other possible state and federal grants.