Union Station's planned makeover creates controversy

One of Washington's historic and architectural landmarks is getting a major makeover.


Long story short

Union Station's planned makeover is creating a controversy.


In the coming years Union Station could see major changes both inside and out.

But the very first proposal is already causing some controversy.

"Historic Union Station is one of the finest railroad stations that any great city in America has ever had," said Rob Nieweg of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

And now the station is set for an upgrade.

But while renovation plans are still in the earliest stages--and eventual construction and completion is years away--one of the very first ideas for the station's great hall is already coming under fire.

It's a proposal to cut a 1,300 foot hole in the floor down to the food court below. And to elevate the existing cafe.

And connect all three levels with spiral glass staircases and elevators.

Preservationists are intensely critical of the plan.

"A brand new, modern structure in the center of that early 20th century space would be inappropriate," said Rebecca Miller of the DC Preservation League. "It takes away from the sight lines when you're standing on either side of the station."

Since the plans were unveiled this summer, nearly a dozen preservation groups have voiced formal opposition to the plan.

Many point to what they call a previous "basement blunder."

"A big hole was cut in the floor in the 70s and it was very unsuccessful. it was only open 2 years from 77 to 78."

It was a Capitol Visitors Center.

After it closed, the floor was restored to what appears inside today.

But the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation--the group in charge of the renovation project--appears to be hearing the critiques loud and clear.

A meeting set for this month was rescheduled for the fall. And a new plan will likely be presented then.

"There's always a balance--and historic preservationists understand that. We're not looking to hold everything in time. We want to move forward, have economic development and make sure these buildings are useful in the future."

But for now the exact future of Union Station isn't entirely clear.

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