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Depot may be ready for construction by spring

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Pere Marquette Depot may be ready for construction by spring

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

By Pati LaLonde

Times Writer

If things stay on track, the historic Pere Marquette Depot will be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2006.

The Great Lakes Center Foundation has $3.2 million, or 79 percent of its goal, to get construction under way, said agency President Charles B. Curtiss.

The public phase to raise the remaining $873,000 kicked off Tuesday with a presentation at a noon meeting of the Bay City Rotary Club.

Once the money is in hand, it will take about four months for an architect to complete the design, Curtiss said, then another four months to prepare the document to take bids. Curtiss is looking for that phase to be completed by February or March.

"We hope to take bids in early spring and have the ground-breaking in April or May," he said. Construction is expected to take 12 to 15 months.

The Bay Area Community Foundation, the parent organization of the Great Lakes Center Foundation, will move into the second floor of the building. The Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau occupy the first floor.

There is a limited amount of space for other nonprofit agencies in the building. The south end of the building will be restored into a two-story waiting room. A catering area will be added in the waiting area.

Curtiss said the waiting area could be a stop for the 60 tour buses that come to Bay City each year. That number could increase to 500 to 600, bringing 26,000 people to shop, tour and perhaps spend the night.

"Buses going up north on I-75 have to take a break," Curtiss said. "We would like to be on that break schedule. I think the depot itself will be an attraction. We can provide coffee and doughnuts, something for them to eat."

Education will be part of the program as well. Using videos or DVDs, highlights of things like tours of Center Avenue or the ghost tour will be shown on a depot wall. Educational programs for children are in the plans, as well.

The waiting area will be available for community receptions.

The outside of the building is getting refurbished, as well. The Rotary Club has pledged $150,000 for the next three years for a park on the west side of the building.

As the public phase kicks in, Curtiss is hoping local businesses or individuals will contribute $25,000 to $30,000, although he said contributions of any size are welcome. Those pledging $1,000 or more will be recognized inside the building.

Costs on the renovation include: $350,000 for acquisition, $2.82 million for construction, $200,000 for site development, $485,000 for professional fees and contingencies and $230,000 for furnishing and equipment, bringing the total to $4.08 million.

The Michigan Department of Transportation recently gave the project a $706,872 grant, which can only be applied to the exterior and waiting room of the building.

The money went a long way in matching the $1.02 million matching grant pledged from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow, Rollin M. Gerstacker and Charles J. Strosacker foundations.

Other contributors include the Alden and Vada Dow Family Foundations, $25,000; Kantzler Foundation, $200,000; the Bay Area Community Foundation, $180,000; the Russell and Maxine Smith Foundation, $40,000; and the Osthelder Foundation Fund, $20,000.

In addition to the $4 million plus renovation fees, Curtiss hopes to raise $1 million for an endowment that will pay for continual operation of the building.

"What we have to do now is fire up a local fund drive," said Curtiss. "We cannot make up $800,000 on spaghetti dinners and raffles."

Built in 1904, the depot was last used in 1969 by the Greyhound Bus Co. In June 1980, it was placed on the Michigan Register of Historic Sites, and in April 1982 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information on donating, call the Bay Area Community Foundation at 893-4438.

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