Last week, Amtrak announced a call for contractors to bid on a proposal to modernize and expand the railroad’s main concourse at Union Station in Washington, D.C. Union Station is Amtrak’s headquarters and the second busiest train station in the country, yet its cramped and narrow concourse has been in desperate need of a face-lift since it was built in the 1980s. While the station has retail and food options, it is plagued with long lines and overcrowding, and lacks bathrooms. Union Station, which is swamped by nearly five million passengers each year, is known for its infamous train boarding process, where riders are forced to wait on the concourse instead of the platform of their specific train. The disorganized space often creates winding lines and very confused passengers. Amtrak's project aims to double the capacity of the 70,000-square-foot space by creating a more open, flexible, and spacious interior layout. The scheme will undoubtedly modernize the space which will no longer be confined by restrictive walls, doors, and hallways. Passengers will be able to flow freely throughout the open concourse, which should alleviate congestion and minimize the stress associated with boarding and queuing. The plans also involve a generous amount of glass and natural light, which will both brighten the space as well as improve overall aesthetics and comfort. The addition of more bathrooms and a luxury, 10,000-square-foot lounge will further provide visitors with a more positive, streamlined experience. This isn’t the first time Amtrak has sought to revamp Union Station. In 2012, the railroad service unveiled a multi-billion-dollar proposal to remodel the concourse. Without proper funding, the plans were scrapped. Construction of Amtrak’s most recent vision is anticipated to begin this fall, and completion is slated for 2022. While the news may be exciting for frequent passengers of Union Station, it still will not fix Amtrak’s inconvenient boarding process.
Posts tagged with "D.C. Union Station":
Frequent visitors to Washington’s Union Station may notice on their next trip that something is missing. For the first time in half a century, managers say, the Main Hall of Daniel Burnham’s Beaux Arts train station is free of all construction-related scaffolding and other obstructions and can be viewed as the architect intended. For once, in other words, there is no major repair work underway, no blocked-off construction zones to walk around to get to the train. Also missing are the Center Café and two indoor planters that were added in previous renovations and took up much of the space under the barrel-vaulted ceiling. “Today, Washington Union Station reveals a restored, historic Main Hall,” said leaders of the Union Station Redevelopment Corp. (USRC), steward of the building at 50 Massachusetts Avenue N. E., in a statement dated May 9. “Covered for the past four years in scaffolding as rehabilitation work was underway, the historic space is now unobstructed, as originally designed, for the first time in almost 50 years.” Scaffolding went up after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the region in 2011, damaging the train station and other historic structures. Besides replastering the coffered ceiling, contractors introduced a new “seismically sound” support structure for the ceiling and improved the heating and air conditioning systems in the attic. Before that was a series of modifications designed to make the station more of a destination for residents and travelers, including a National Visitor Center timed with the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976 and subsequent plans to make it a festival marketplace. Part of the just-completed restoration involved removal of a large café and round planters in the center of the Main Hall, a move that represented the culmination of several years of discussions between the Federal Railroad Administration and the State Historic Preservation Office. The Center Café closed on March 1, and removal of the restaurant enclosure and planters began soon afterwards, opening up the Main Hall. “We are very excited to reveal a fully-restored Main Hall for the public to enjoy that is also consistent with the original design envisioned by the world-famous station architect, Daniel Burnham,” said USRC President and CEO Beverley Swaim-Staley. “This is the first time in many of our lives where we can fully appreciate this space as it was historically designed.” The Main Hall opened in 1907 as the General Waiting Room for the station and was known for its impressive scale. It measures 219 feet by 120 feet, and its gold-coffered ceiling is 96 feet high. Lined with mahogany benches, the Main Hall functioned as a large open space until the 1940s, when World War II brought an increase in passenger traffic and ticket counters were expanded from the West Hall into the Main Hall to meet demand. In the 1970s, as train travel declined and air travel became more popular, managers considered new ideas to keep the station active. They designated the train station a National Visitor Center in honor of the nation’s Bicentennial. The Main Hall was reconfigured to contain an elaborate slide show that featured scenes of Washington and other tourist attractions. The slide show proved unpopular and was closed in 1985. That same year, the entire station was shut down for a renovation that included the Center Café prominently positioned in the center of the Main Hall, and other stores and restaurants nearby to make more of a hub for shopping and entertainment. The August 2011 earthquake provided an opportunity to rethink the station again. Besides causing damage that required immediate attention, it triggered a larger discussion about the best way to preserve and restore the Main Hall. In 2012, contractors began restoration of the damaged ceiling. As part of the work, they installed an elaborate system of steel framing to provide a new support structure for the ceiling, designed to help protect it in case of future earthquakes. The entire ceiling bay was also repainted and new gold leafing was applied, with help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a $350,000 corporate donation from the American Express Foundation. The grant helped repair the ceiling by aiding in the replacement of more than the 120,000 sheets of 23-karat gold leaf. Besides the repair work on the ceiling itself, the heating and air-conditioning systems in the attic, behind the ceiling, were improved by realigning ductwork and creating new connections to the ceiling diffusers that will allow them to be cleaned and serviced more regularly. In April, once the ceiling restoration was completed, deconstruction began on the Center Café and the two circular planters, which once served as fountains. Swaim-Staley said the last four years’ worth of repairs were a team effort, involving the Federal Railroad Administration; Union Station Investco, an entity of Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, (manager of the station’s retail spaces); the State Historic Preservation Office, and other historic agencies. London-based Hayles and Howe led the plaster ceiling restoration. Preservationists say they’re glad to know the work is done. “Over the last 30 years both Union Station and the adjacent Capitol Hill neighborhood have been transformed by restoring the historic urban and architectural fabric,” said Lisa Dale Jones, president of Capitol Hill Restoration Society. “The restoration of the Main Hall’s open floor plan, together with repairs to the coffered and gilt barrel vault ceiling, are important milestones in this recovery.”
Grimshaw and Beyer Blinder Belle have been tapped by Washington, D.C.'s Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC) to spearhead a master plan to spruce up the city's iconic train station. The "Master Development Plan for Union Station's 2nd Century" builds upon the hugely ambitious, $9 billion development plan that Amtrak and developer Akridge unveiled in 2012. As AN wrote at the time: "The 3-million-square-foot project promises to unite the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and NoMa, a former industrial area transformed into a leafy residential neighborhood." Now, Grimshaw and Beyer Blinder Belle are tasked with making that vision (or something like it) a reality. To do so, the firms will be conducting a comprehensive planning process with public engagement and environmental assessment. They will also draw up conceptual designs to improve the passenger experience and overall functionality at the station. "The Master Development Plan for Union Station’s 2nd Century will respect and reinforce the station’s historic setting, while also integrating it with surrounding neighborhoods, and the construction of Burnham Place, a three-million-square-feet of mixed-use space, parks, and plazas to be developed over the rail yard," said the USRC, Amtrak, and Akridge in a statement. This master plan will actually be the second Union Station master plan that Grimshaw is currently overseeing. Last fall, the firm unveiled a very futuristic vision for Los Angeles' train station of the same name.