TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — For more than a century, Tallahassee’s train station welcomed people to the capital city. Now, a team from Leon County has its sights set on the next century of travel.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our community,” shared Kerri Post, Director of Tourism for Leon County.
It’s an opportunity to drive more tourism into Tallahassee’s economy. The station is nestled along the tracks between Florida A&M University and Florida State University. It’s been 6 years since the last passenger train rolled through Tallahassee. Service ended with damage done by Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Post added.
The team from Leon County is working to transform the historic walls and halls into a new kind of gateway to the community.
“We are so excited,” Post said. “We are standing in the middle of what’s to become the new Tallahassee-Leon County Visitor Information Center.”
It’s a center she said will be a show place for the whole community. “A lot of times, this will enable visitors to extend their stay or encourage them to come back and visit again,” Post continued.
The project is designed to highlight what Tallahassee has to offer visitors and people who live here while preserving some of the history that got us here.
“This is a cool building,” said Stephen Kelly, Chief of Building Engineering with Leon County Public Works. “We worked with the national register for historic places to keep the historic aspects of the building.”
One section of the building has been standing since 1858. Preserving that history comes with challenges. The project is costing $3.5 million which Post said is about a million more than initially projected due to pandemic setbacks.
“Prices since March of 2019 in some areas have gone up 300 percent. It’s directly related to the pandemic,” explained Heath Annin, President of Ram Construction and Development. That firm is based in Gadsden County. They’re doing much of the heavy lifting with this project.
“We need to stay local as much as possible,” Annin added. “We still want free market enterprise. We still want people to have a chance to get jobs.”
The project is paid for using tourist development dollars. After delays due to the pandemic, Post says she’s glad to see progress being made.
Annin said they hope to wrap up construction around the first of the new year.
While Amtrak has no immediate plans to return to Tallahassee, the Federal Railroad Administration launched a website to study the feasibility of restoring certain Amtrak routes that have been discontinued. While no specific routes have been highlighted for study, they are accepting public comments on which routes need to be restored, which could put Tallahassee back up for discussion.