Duluth to move train depot in to museum

DULUTH - By Halloween of 2008, the Southeastern Railway Museum plans to move Duluth's W.P. Jones Train Depot to the museum site where it will join other railroad exhibits.

The Duluth City Council on Monday approved relocating the depot and leasing it to the museum for $1 a year. The depot is located at W.P. Jones Park on Pleasant Hill Road. The structure will be moved to the Southeastern Railway Museum at 3615 Peachtree Road.

Randy Pirkle, administrator for the museum, said the depot would be moved intact late next spring or early summer with a relocation deadline of Oct. 31, 2008. After moving it, the museum plans to restore the depot with completion in 2010.

"This is the first of many new things to come," said Duluth Mayor Shirley Fanning-Lasseter. Plans eventually include a train that would run on a railroad spur between the museum and downtown Duluth, she said.

The council authorized Duluth's Downtown Development Authority and its consultant Bill Butler of JWB Realty Services to start negotiating a contract with the Milestone Group and Coro Realty Advisors to redevelop City Hall block. Architects for the project presented the plans for Duluth Town Center, a mixed-use redevelopment of the block, at the council's Oct. 8 meeting. The project would include office, commercial and residential uses.

The council's action was taken upon the recommendation of the Downtown Development Authority and with the city's apologies to a developer and architectural firm that had previously submitted plans to redevelop the block but that had not been contacted after negotiations with another potential developer had reached an impasse.

Councilwoman Marsha Bomar expressed concern that this standard industry practice had not been followed, and Mayor Lasseter instructed City Administrator Phil McLemore to draft guidelines to prevent it from happening again.

The council vote on a motion to initiate negotiations with Milestone and Coro was 3-1.

The proposed redevelopment would require razing of existing buildings on the block with the exception of the church building that houses the City Hall on West Lawrenceville Street.

Maxine Garner, a member of the Duluth Historical Society, presented a letter urging the city to spare the parsonage next to the church and consider using it for children's art activities. The parsonage presently houses the Duluth Historical Museum.