Terminal Station transition could yield big changes

jgaines@macon.comJuly 14, 2014 

Despite years of work and millions of dollars poured into the 98-year-old Terminal Station, much of the historic building remains unfinished and unused.

The Macon Transit Authority, which manages the building and occupies part of it, wants to take title to the old railroad station as well in hopes that will give access to federal funds for further renovation.

In anticipation of a Macon-Bibb County Commission vote on the matter, transit authority officials stood ready Monday morning to give a tour of the building’s unfinished parts to all commission members. All were invited, but only Commissioners Gary Bechtel and Elaine Lucas said they’d come, according to Andy Stroud, the MTA’s marketing and facilities director.

But though Stroud waited for half an hour in the building’s marble-floored, gilt-ceilinged lobby, neither commissioner showed up. Nor did they answer phone calls at the time, transit authority staff said.

So Stroud gave his planned tour to The Telegraph and two TV crews. He showed peeling paint and exposed air ducts in the punctured metal ceiling of a reception room just off the lobby, then moved on to the former “colored waiting room,” the transit authority’s top priority for renovation.

It has seen some work but remains unfinished, with some space used for storage.

“These are the original benches here,” Stroud said, pointing out wooden seats piled along the wall. “We want to restore those and use this for a conference room.”

Behind that lies a room with an interior balcony, which could be turned into a food court.

“We just need some extra funds to complete it,” Stroud said.

The city got a $6.7 million federal grant in 2002 to buy and renovate Terminal Station. The building was rededicated in fall 2010.

There are no formal estimates of how much the rest of the needed work will cost, but it will probably cost at least as much as has already been spent, Stroud said.

More rooms are unfinished, and even renovated but empty offices will need some work before new tenants move in.

If all parts of the building are fixed up and the space can be rented out, the building could pay its own expenses, reducing the subsidy the MTA requests annually from Macon-Bibb government, Stroud said.

Commissioners are scheduled for a final vote Tuesday night on whether to transfer Terminal Station to MTA ownership. A similar effort failed before Macon City Council in 2012, but this resolution cleared committee last week by a 4-0 vote.

If the building’s operating costs -- mostly maintenance and utilities -- exceed rent paid by tenants, the transit authority can’t get that deficit covered by its federal subsidy unless the transit authority owns the building, Mayor Robert Reichert has said. Also, federal officials won’t consider any transportation grants that might help improve the building unless the authority owns it, he said.

Transit authority General Manager Rick Jones said there is a $1 million grant available now, but the transit authority can’t use it until it owns the building.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service