Engineers: Union Station requires $3.7 million in emergency repairs

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Indianapolis plans to spend $3.7 million to fix pressing structural problems at historic Union Station, and architects say the building could use another $3.8 million in improvements.

The Department of Metropolitan Development hopes to tap the downtown tax increment financing (TIF) fund for the emergency work. A source of funding for the extra upgrades hasn't been identified, but DMD Director Adam Thies said the city could apply for federal grants.

Thies also is considering the possibility of selling the Greyhound and Amtrak terminal. It's the one section of the building that could be carved off into a separate parcel, he said.

"We do have to keep considering the future of this building," Thies said Wednesday morning after a tour led by architect Greg Jacoby of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects.

As many as 25 freight trains a day run through city-owned Union Station, which spans four city blocks. The tracks are supported by a steel superstructure. Several tenants, including the Crowne Plaza hotel, occupy the building at street level.

The Metropolitan Development Commission was scheduled to hear an update Wednesday on the emergency work. The department has already authorized more than $725,000 in work. That included some work on the south wall, where water infiltration caused bricks to fall off in December 2012. 

Thies will ask the commission to extend Browning Day's contract in anticipation of a full fix for the south wall. That work, which will go out for bid this fall, is estimated to cost $1.5 million. "This is the most pressing item," Thies said.

The brick is just a facade for the steel structure that supports freight railroad tracks, owned by CSX, Jacoby said. Water infiltration caused brackets in the structure to deteriorate and sink, pushing out water and bricks.

Because of the 2012 incident, Browning Day and structural engineer Mike Lawson examined the expansion joints that run the length of the station. Those also are in need of repair, Jacoby said.

The good news, Thies said, is that there are no major issues with the steel structure holding up the trains.

Other items that would be fixed immediately are the roof and chimney of the head house, which is the iconic red brick building at Illinois and Louisiana streets; expansion joints along the length of the train station; a corroded steel staircase under the Meridian Street bridge; and damaged skylights along the length of the train shed.

While CSX isn't obligated to maintain Union Station, Thies said he will seek the company's help in paying for the immediate fixes.

Browning identified other serious—but not as pressing—problems throughout the building. Some of those include water infiltration in various places, deteriorating mortar on the clock tower and deterioration of the roof of the train shed. The rough estimate for those non-structural and cosmetic repairs is $3.8 million.


  • Historic Demise
    It was the Historical Societies refusal to approve any one of a number of plans to connect Union Station to the Mall that lead to its most recent demise. I saw that as extremely short-sighted at the time and predicted the demise of the station at the time.
  • Selling Off Assets
    Why would you sell off the Greyhound/Amtrak terminal? That's a short-term gain that won't address Union Station's long-term needs. What's the cost/benefit? I know you don't want the Indy/Chicago Amtrak line - which is extremely short-sighted. When commuter or high-speed rail service comes to Indy, wouldn't we want to control that property for a new terminal? Or do you seriously think the new BUS depot is a multi-modal center?
  • More Money for Union Station
    I remember when Union Station was full of restaurants and shops and held big fun events. Be it tax dollars or not, more money should go into renovating and supporting Union Station as another jewel of Indianapolis Downtown. Whether or not you agree with all of the development and support of downtown structures or not...it happened and has been happening for several decades. Development and maintenance of all the downtown quadrants is necessary.
  • Crowne Plaza Hotel
    I hope no visitors to the city that may stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel get hurt. This info could be bad for their business.
  • louis_hubble@yahoo.com
    Italiano- Certain landmarks in this city are too important to demolish. Such statements reflect an ignorance of history and a lack of appreciation for the city's few remaining historic landmarks. Should we demolish monument circle because it is a little leaky? Or maybe the statehouse because a window is busted? This building is an important part of our collective heritage, why should we not fund to preserve it? Though we should not be wasteful with tax money, I find this knee-jerk anti-tax attitude to be destructive to this city's future.
  • Get CSX
    The city needs to find a way to work with CSX to reroute freight out of downtown and on to the indy belt line! This would not only help Union Station development, but also benefit all of the land adjacent to the tracks through downtown and the near east side - which would suddenly be worth a whole lot more and increase the property tax rolls. Maybe a freight line TIF to fund the re routing?
  • Here we go again
    This is just a prelude to raiding the coffers of TAXPAYER funds. If the building has no use, perhaps it should be demolished?
  • Yes, Emergency, Read The Article Carefully
    If you read the article carefully, you would see that bricks collapsed off the south facade last year--fortunately, no one was standing by the building at the time, or they would have been seriously injured or killed. Now, the engineers have found the same sort of water inflitration on the other side that caused the facade to partially collapse on the south side, and the facade needs to be reinforced. This is what is meant by emergency repairs. I know Indianapolis still suffers from the cornfield mentality and prides itself on letting its civic buildings collapse before spending a dime to fix them, but most other towns invest in regular maintenance so that expensive emergency repairs are unnecessary.
  • remove the tracks
    They need to make Union Station a free standing building. Move those tracks out of the city. The bridges and vinyl siding divide the city and are an eyesore. Opening up Union Station on all four sides would make it much more appealing to a developer for restoration and new life. When does the CSX contract end?
  • re: Patrick
    Don't forget the Colts and the Pacers...
  • Taxes
    I can only surmise that the reason it hasn't happened yet is because it would raise taxes. You know how Hoosiers HATE any mention of tax increases! We'll bend over to make Eli Lilly, Honda, etc. happy, while our infrastructure crumbles...
  • Typo
    Whoops, meant 20th century!!!
  • Traveling Broadens The Horizons
    Having visited several comparably sized cities within the past several weeks (Cincinnati, Kansas City, St. Louis and Philadelphia) I find it fascinating that every other city manages to convert their old, turn of the 10th Century, train stations into vibrant museums, restaurants, shops, gathering places, etc. I have attended numerous receptions and parties at Union Station, I can remember traveling out of there as a child (with parents who hated airline travel), and it is a truly wondrous place. Why can't we do something useful with it, considering all of our so-called competition has?
    • Casino
      Let's just do it already. It will bring even more life to that end of downtown, and it will be a great use of the space. Make it a casino, AND the only one in the state with actual card games.
    • Should be a museum
      Union Station: Lincoln's body came thru there on it's way back to Springfield Illinois after he was killed at Ford's Theatre. The World War l l soldiers went and returned from war in that station. Why isn't it a museum with different era trains housed inside for tours or short rides around the museum. They could make tons of money from museum fees.
    • Simons should help
      I remember years ago when the union station reopened it was on the national morning shows it was a beautiful vibrant historic facility. When the Simons decided to build their downtown mall it killed union station so maybe they could auntie up some funding to help with the costs
    • Emergency?
      The headline describes repairs needed at Union Station are of an emergency nature. Yet there are no comments or quotes in the text of the story that suggest an emergency exists.

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