Plans for the Depot
Depot plans still unclear
by Emily Canning-Dean
Bedford -- Since last summer, the area where a gray vinyl-sided storage building used to sit across from Southeast Suburban Branch Post Office has been a pile of gravel, but city officials are hoping to eventually put the land to good use.
The building, which city officials said was in disrepair, once was Bedford's first railroad depot and was built in 1852. However, few of the historic parts of the building remained and it was torn down last summer because upgrading it would have been too expensive, officials said.
The building should not be confused with the 1882 railroad depot, which still exists on the west side of the Commons.
Some ideas were proposed over what to do with the space, but nothing was decided.
"I need to talk to Council and kick around some ideas," said City Manager Bob Reid. "I'm thinking that right now we could just pave the area and use it for parking until we find something else to do with it. Right now it's just gravel. We need to do something with it."
Reid said he expects the area would offer a paved lot with 15 to 20 parking spaces which could be used to accommodate vehicles during weekend festivals in the summer and parties in the park on Wednesday evenings.
Eventually, Reid said he would like to see something else done with the space. He has suggested that the city install a skating rink/wading fountain on the site.
"I just think it would be a nice addition to the area," he said. "People could skate in the winter and then we would have a pond or fountain in the summer."
Opinions vary among city officials.
Ward 6 Councilor Don Saunders said he doesn't see a need to construct anything on the site.
"I would just like to see it become part of the Square," he said. "It would be nice to have a hard surface where we could put kiddie rides. I've heard some people have concerns about the rides on the grass areas because it damages the grass."
Mayor Dan Pocek said he thinks paving the area might be the best action taken now, but he would like to see something else done with it in the future.
"I would eventually like to see us open the site up to commercial use," Pocek said. "I also think we need to set up something on the site noting the historical significance of the old depot."
Bedford Historical Society Director Janet Caldwell said the historical society has no immediate plans to set up a historical marker.
"It's not up to us because the city owns the property," she said. "But if the city requests, we could arrange for some sort of plaque."
Reid said he will consult Council members about their wishes for the site within the next few months.
I think this brings up a good question. This is a plot of land which the city now has, but it is an awkward size and many great ideas to be discussed.
Parking is one issue that could be crippling our downtown businesses. The Romitos building was a prime spot where parking is concerned, and now it seems to be sold to an up and coming restaurant. So I can see a parking lot as a quick fix.
I am an advocate of Mr. Reid's ice rink plan. It would be nice to have a skating rink during the winter. Perhaps even large enough for a junior hockey league during our winter season. But the skating will absolutely bring people downtown during the winter months. Being close to Arabica, a restaurant, a hobby shop, and a music shop can only give our young residents and the businesses along Broadway something to look forward to.
Mayor Pocek is a history buff and I too would like to see something to commemorate the history of the location. I do, however, disagree with the idea of turning it into commercial land at this time. I might not know something that the mayor knows, but we need to focus on building the downtown area and filling the vacant stores before we expand it. The zoning committee will have to be on their toes in the next few months.
Mr. Saunders has his concerns that the land should be used for expanding the square and becoming a place where the kiddies rides can be put, to save the grass. Now, I find this to be a smart idea, but I don't know the true impact on the grass due to the rides.
I find this article to be thought provoking because it brings light to one piece of land that has wonderful location to our downtown district and then highlights the city's different opinions. Something will be done to this land and I am excited to see what will.
I would like to ask the question of "what you, the reader, would like to see the land be used for?"