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(rshsdepot) Matthews, NC

Officials Scale Back Plans For Station

The Charlotte Observer

Renovating the historic train station in Matthews will cost double what town
leaders planned, prompting them to consider a scaled-down version of the

Most of the trimming will take place on plans for the outside of the
building, including a decorative stone wall and a system of decks and ramps.

Commissioners earmarked about $250,000 in tourism money last year to
renovate the 1874 train depot. The board wants to restore the building to
its original look as much as possible, while rewiring the inside and adding
a restroom, insulation and a heating-and-cooling system.

They decided to devote most of the building to a museum and visitors center
to be run by the Matthews Chamber of Commerce. The chamber also will lease
three offices in the building.

At Monday's town meeting, the board learned that the current drawings would
cost about $519,000 to build. Public Works director Ralph Messera and
architect Frank Williams II said that's because the work is more extensive
and building supplies are more expensive than first thought. It costs more
than building a new structure.

"It's a small community building that you're taking apart and putting back
together," Williams said, adding that he feels its role in history makes the
project worthwhile.

"It's the oldest thing in Matthews, and it's where we got our name,"
Williams said.

Railroad officials named the town's rail stop Matthews Station in honor of
Central Carolina Railroad director Watson Matthews. Before that, it was
known as Fullwood. The town was officially named Matthews in 1879.

Alternative plans include making a concrete and brick access ramp smaller,
or building it with wood instead. A stone wall planned to run along the
railroad tracks also could be deleted. Changes could drop the cost to about
$386,500, depending on what commissioners decide.

The town could use tourism funds already earmarked for the renovation to pay
for about half of the project and borrow the rest from the general fund, to
be paid back over a few years from future tourism dollars.

Tourism funds come from taxes on hotels/motels and prepared food and
beverages sold in the town. They are meant to be used on projects that will
draw visitors.

Mayor Lee Myers said the town should cut back on parts of the original plan,
especially items that could be added later. The important thing is to get
started, he said.

"If we let it sit any longer, it's just going to deteriorate."

The board plans to vote on a final plan Feb. 10.

Also on Monday, the board voted to add more streetlights to the public
parking lot that runs along the train tracks, north of Trade Street. Running
new lights will cost about $600 per year.

They also discussed whether extra lights are needed in Stumptown Park and
plan to ask the N.C. Department of Transportation to install a traffic light
at I-485 and West John Street, just south of downtown.

The actions are part of an initiative to make the downtown area feel more
safe and welcoming to shoppers and diners.

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org