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(rshsdepot) Venice, FL

Depot restoration on track



Sarasota Herald-Tribune

VENICE -- One thing still runs on schedule at the historic Venice Train
Depot: Restoration work is progressing according to plan, despite rain

The work, which began in October, is about 35 percent complete, said Dick
Warblow, director of operations for Howell Construction Group Inc.

Crews have erected a new decorative tower, added new bathrooms, and replaced
rotted and weather-damaged wood in the floor and roof.

The past few months' heavy rains delayed roof restoration, said Don Nevis, a
Sarasota County construction project administrator. Despite the slowdown,
work is on schedule and on budget.
It should be finished by Sept. 26, as scheduled. Crews still must pave an
entry and exit for the buses, build retention ponds, add clay tiles to the
roof, landscape the exterior and paint the walls before then.

"A tremendous amount of work is still to be done," Nevis said.

When finished, Sarasota County Area Transit intends to use the depot as its
South County bus transfer station. Five bus routes will operate from the
depot's 3.25-acre site: two will travel to North Port, one will serve
Englewood and another will serve Sarasota. The SCAT-About -- Venice's
on-demand bus service -- also will use the depot as its hub.
During its colorful past, the Venice Depot served as a destination for
railway workers, cadets going to the Kentucky Military Institute campus in
town, fighter pilots training at the local Army Air Base and hordes of
circus performers and animals.

Passenger service stopped in 1971 and the depot fell into disrepair; grass
grew over the tracks and graffiti grew on the walls. In 1999, the county
used city, state and federal grants to buy the land and depot for $327,000.
The $2.3 million project is Howell's first with the county. The company has
performed similar restorations at the Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach and
Wyndham Casa Marina Resort in Key West.

"It's going just the way they expected it to go," Warblow said. "But it's
always more difficult to reconstruct anything that was previously built than
to build anything from scratch."

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