Friday, March 2, 2012

City Formulating Plans for Old Wasena Train Station

The old Wasena train station: Plans afoot?
Over the past 10 years, I have talked with people in Roanoke City government several times about the potential that exists in the old railroad station building in Wasena Park. The building was headquarters for the Virginia Museum of Transportation until the flood of 1985 and has not been used to any degree since then. It just sits there.

The question arises again now because the renovated River House (the old Ice House) is moving toward completion and it will bring a lot of new people to the area.

A couple of years ago, when the flood reduction project along Wiley Drive was in process and there were tons and tons of dirt being moved, I asked City Manager Darlene Burcham why she didn't have some of that dirt piled up around the edges of the station building property to seal it off from flooding. It would have been a simple, easy, cheap response and would have left the building much more desirable for use. Darlene said the dirt was "spoken for." I suspect I rolled my eyes.

This morning, I shot a note over to City Manager Chris Morrill, who is one of the most responsive public officials I've ever met, and he immediately answered.

Here's the exchange, me first:

Now that Ed Walker's River House project is taking shape, does Roanoke have any plans to renovate and re-open the old train station building in Wasena Park? My guess is that renovation would be fairly minimal. The building is beside the skate park and would make a marvelous community center. It is smack in the flood plane, but a berm built around it would keep the water out and would not be expensive to do.

It would help create a lovely community focus in that section.

Chris' response:

You are spot on about the old transportation museum. We are exploring some exciting possibilities for it that I hope we will be able to announce in the very near future.

I don't have a clue what they'll do with the building, but anything would be better than nothing. My thought has been that a teen center or a Wasena community center (much like the old building in Highland Park serves Old Southwest) would help create what the city calls "City Centers." Beside the station building is a skateboard park, tennis courts, basketball courts and softball fields. This would be a marvelous addition to that complex and would open it  up to groups for meetings, picnics and other events that could help create and sustain community.

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