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It's Not the Train but the Station That Is Leaving
By Monica Pratt, ArcUser Editor
A former Union Pacific railroad depot in Boulder, Colorado, may soon be on the move again. Though the solid stone building was hardly designed as a mobile facility, the depot may be transplanted to its third location, rescued from the wrecking ball for a second time by the Boulder Jaycees. With the help of ArcView GIS, the group is looking for a new home for the 110-year-old structure.
Emblematic of an Era
Railroads played an important role in the development of the City of Boulder. The depot is emblematic of that early era. Built in 1890, the depot is a gracious stone structure whose architectural design has been variously designated as Richardson Romanesque Revival and Bonanza Victorian. Native stone from the Anderson Quarry in Skunk Canyon was used in the building's construction. As the Boulder County Herald reported shortly before the building's dedication, "The stone work is not to be surpassed in the state. The woodwork is exceedingly well-done and is handsome. A gentleman who has made a critical examination of the work says 'one ounce of putty will cover all the defects in the way of joints, cracks, & etc.'"
The depot functioned as a railroad passenger station until 1957, when a new depot was built east of Boulder. The DenverBoulder Bus Company and Travel Center purchased the depot and used it as a bus terminal until the early 1970s. In 1973, the City of Boulder made plans to raze the building so that 14th Street could be opened to Canyon Boulevard. A group of concerned citizens formed the Historic Boulder organization and lobbied the community to save the depot.
Saved by Jaycees
The depot became the home of the Boulder Jaycees after the organization saved this historic landmark from demolition. The Boulder Jaycees organization is affiliated with the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit leadership-training organization for young adults between the ages of 21 and 40. Jaycee organizations across the United States and throughout the world (Junior Chamber International) provide opportunities for personal development and achievement. While working on projects that benefit the community, members develop skills that can be used in the workplace.
The Jaycees purchased the building for $68,000 and moved it from the 14th Street site to leased property on the Pow Wow Grounds at Pearl and 30th streets. Since the move, the cupola and wood shingle roof have been replaced and the sandstone exterior cleaned. The depot was also remodeled with offices, meeting rooms, and a kitchen. Over the years craft fairs, dance classes, wedding receptions, and business meetings have been held there as well as Jaycee functions. The depot has become closely identified with the Boulder Jaycees, as evidenced by the name of the group's newsletter, the Boulder Jaycees Sidetrack.
Changes All Around
In the quarter century since the first move the City has experienced tremendous growth. Heavy commercial development adjacent to the depot has overwhelmed it and created parking and traffic flow problems for those using the facility. In addition to these practical considerations, the aesthetics of the building are compromised by the current site, which lacks sufficient space and the historical context that would allow the purpose and architecture of the depot to be fully appreciated.
The challenges the depot faces aren't limited to external factors. The current floor plan doesn't allow the building to be used by more than one group at a time and has limited income generated by renting the building to groups. Moving the depot would provide an opportunity to reconfigure the interior, creating rental office space that could give the Jaycees an income stream for financing building improvements. The Jaycees are investigating the possibility of subleasing a portion of the building.
With these issues in mind, the Jaycees made successive proposals to the City to relocate the depot on a portion of the 9th Street and Canyon Boulevard Urban Renewal Site. Neither proposal was accepted. Subsequently, the Jaycees began evaluating other potential sites using ArcView GIS and data from the City of Boulder. One of the organization's officers, Paul Bailey, used ArcView GIS as a general visualization tool for integrating City and historic rail data. Bailey was aware that certain sites in the City were available, but finding the best site meant weighing several factors. Since the group wanted to preserve the context of the building, they needed to find sites in reasonable proximity to historic rail lines. Buffering rail lines helped identify those sites. Parking availability and ease of access were other considerations.
ArcView GIS has been used not only for analysis but has helped the Jaycees communicate the results of their site analysis. By using ArcView GIS interactively in demonstrations, they have shown community members why they favor certain sites. Maps generated in ArcView GIS were also included in an extensive report that the Jaycees prepared for the Colorado Historical Society outlining relocation options for the depot. The Jaycees also plan to put this information online using ArcView IMS.
The proposed sites are clustered in four areas of the City-two sites near the present location, three sites in the downtown area, one site in the Gateway development area, and another site in Valmont Park. The nearby sites would mitigate the cost of moving the building. One of these sites, situated near a planned commuter rail line, could mean the depot might return, at least in part, to its historic transportation function. The downtown sites give the public the greatest access to the depot and include the most historically accurate site at 14th and Canyon Boulevard but suffer from limited parking availability. The Gateway site, near a rail line currently in operation, offers excellent open space around the building but is divorced from the historical downtown context. The East Boulder site, near the original right of way for the Brighton to Boulder and Boulder to Marshall rail lines, provides the most prominent site for the depot but is less historically linked.
Links to the Past
Though every site has one or more shortcomings, each fulfills the basic criteria for relocating the depot so that it can be again used and enjoyed. The group's objectives include retaining a connection to the building in name and use, restoring the structure to excellent condition, and allowing its use as a community meeting place. Saving the depot will not only meet the present needs of the Jaycees and other community groups for a meeting place, but will serve future generations by providing a solid link to Boulder's past.
For more information on the Boulder Jaycees Depot, please contact Paul at email@example.com.