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Delray Beach is on its way to take a historic building that was damaged by fire last year into renovated office space that will save the city space and money.
The Delray Beach Seaboard Air Line Railway Station, designed by renowned architect Gustav A. Maass and built back in 1927, is one of the oldest buildings in the city. The building at Interstate 95 and Atlantic Avenue fell victim to arson when teens playing with fire damaged the building early last year.
Delray Beach City Commissioner Ryan Boylston, the point person for the renovations, said that the arson incident prompted the city to decide what to do with the property.
“The train station has been empty for quite some time,” he said. “It’s a historic building, but it’s in a very unique area where access for real commercial use is not ideal. Last year, unfortunately, some kids were playing with fire and lit the whole thing up. That really brought the attention back to what we should be doing with this asset.”
According to Boylston, he was already considering options with what to do with the facility before the damage was done.
“Since I was elected to the commission three years ago, I was pushing for utilization of that space, since it was just sitting there,” he said. “Prior to the fire accident, we were talking about putting a line item in the budget to go in there and fix up the whole building inside and out, to at least make sure that we’re taking care of this historic building so it wouldn’t fall further into disarray.”
When the fire incident happened, Boylston said the commission worked with city staff to put together a list of ideas to utlitilze the building.
“I sat down with the staff and shared the ideas that their colleagues had,” he said. “I wanted to find out what the need actually is for the staff.
“As it turns out, we need space,” Boylston said. “Even though in the next five to 10 years, we’ll likely build a new city hall, we decided that we could turn this train station into space for our Human Resources department. Plus, we have our own medical services department that takes care of our 1,000 employees, which we are currently leasing space for. So using this building for both purposes would help our budget and give us more space. So I thought that was a fantastic idea.”
The station was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places back in the 1980s, meaning it has been deemed worthy of preservation. So the city will be presenting the project to the Historic Preservation Board for a demolition permit that allows for historic building elements of the original structure to be retained and allows for the demolition of other parts.
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“They’re not going to completely knock the building down and rebuild it,” Boylston said. “I’m sure there will be elements that they’re not able to save because of the fire, but there are other important elements that they will be able to preserve.”
The building is old, damaged and not maintained at this point, he said.
Until 1995, the train depot was a major portal for those coming to and leaving from Delray Beach, according to the city, which has owned the depot since 2005.
Boylston said he wants to see that, along with restoring the building’s sheen and updating it with new construction, there also will be considerable work on its surroundings.
“Our hope is to be doing a lot of landscaping at the facility,” Boylston said. “It’s near I-95, at somewhat of an entrance to our city. We’re planning on not only redoing the building to make it more beautiful, but the addition of landscaping and lighting all around it will make it even better.”
The project is expected to be completed in about two years.