City Council to Discuss Saving Historic South Pacific Railway Depot on Wednesday | New


Bakersfield City Council will discuss on Wednesday preventing the impending demolition of the South Pacific Train Depot in Kern Old Town.

One of the oldest structures in Bakersfield that still resembles its original form, the repository is praised for its historical significance and its preservation is seen as a key part of the region’s revitalization movement.

“The train depot has been a centerpiece of East Bakersfield for over a hundred years,” said City Councilor Andrae Gonzales. “This is a milestone in our community. It is a historic structure – it is one of the very few historic structures in our community – and in my opinion, it is worth saving.

Built in 1889, the station was built in a community that was originally known as Sumner before later becoming Kern City. Trains brought Basque immigrants to the surrounding area, lending Bakersfield a key part of its identity.

Although the depot itself is no longer in use, Union Pacific, which now owns the land, still operates the yard adjacent to the building. The company is moving its headquarters to a building down the street and had plans to demolish the building once the move is complete.

On Wednesday, council will decide whether it should officially enter into negotiations with Union Pacific for a 12-month lease for the building. If successful, the council would then seek developers to convert the building to another use, possibly as a food or accommodation or retail center.

“If we could save the station, get private dollars to invest in the structure, be able to actually activate that space, that would be a huge boost to the local neighborhood,” Gonzales said. “We’ve seen it before. Individual private parties have come together to save the Fox Theater. The Fox Theater has been a tremendous asset in downtown Bakersfield.

But taking responsibility for the deposit comes at a price. An analysis of the city’s building condition revealed that immediate upgrades costing $ 295,000 to $ 443,000 are expected to be made. And while the exterior may seem acceptable for a building its age, the interior has been vandalized and is regularly occupied by unauthorized persons.

City employees also estimate that at least $ 223,000 will be needed to keep the site safe. A full rehabilitation could cost $ 5 million to $ 10 million, the city estimated in a report to the council.

Still, advocates say preservation is well worth the cost. A new movement to breathe new life into the old town of Kern would greatly benefit if the rehabilitation plans are successful. The depot could bring much needed traffic to the region.

Additionally, local historian Stephen Montgomery considers it one of the few places where history can be preserved in Kern County, rather than just documented.

“One of the big things about preservation is about pride in the community, in having a context in which you live. Part of the history of our original community is reflected in our older infrastructure. You take that away and the city has no past, ”he said. “You look at cities where people are proud of their city, and these are cleaner cities.”

The Bakersfield Hub, which is chaired by Gonzales, began a petition on change.org to revitalize the old town of Kern. So far, 2,271 people have signed.

Montgomery said he plans to start a non-profit organization to convert the repository to a new use.

“We don’t seem to have a past because most of our past has been erased, at least visually,” he added. “For me, it is important for the culture and the pride of citizenship in this community to save a building like this, which has been an integral part of the development of the community.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You can also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.


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