Kewanee, Ill. Celebrates Dedication of New Intercity Passenger Rail Station
Station Viewed as a Generator for Economic Development
Photo courtesy of City of Kewanee.
On April 13, 2012, state and Amtrak officials—arriving aboard the eastbound Illinois Zephyr—joined with townspeople to dedicate Kewanee’s new train station, a facility first proposed more than a decade ago. Speakers included Kewanee Mayor Bruce Tossell, Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider, State Senators and Representatives, and Thomas Carper, Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors.
Located a few blocks west of Main Street, the new depot replaces a small brick shelter that was constructed after the historic Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad station was demolished in 1985. Designed by the Peoria-based Farnsworth Group, the new $485,000 facility is strikingly modern, with a dramatic sloping roof and great expanses of glass that allow natural light to bathe the waiting room. In addition to comfortable seating, there are also restrooms available.
A large neon sign, placed high on the waiting room wall, spells out “KEWANEE” and beckons to travelers at night while casting a soothing blue hue over the room. Mayor Tossell noted, “The design was to show Kewanee is a vibrant and forward-thinking community with a bright future.” Community State Bank donated a computer terminal to allow passengers to print tickets, as well as a flat screen television to show the news and local area information.
City and business leaders believe that the improved depot will act as a welcoming portal to Kewanee and attract visitors interested in a day out among the town’s restaurants and shops. “The [depot] show[s] Kewanee is open for business, and we want you to visit our community….It’ll show the traveler that they are important to us, and we welcome them,” said Mayor Tossell during the ceremony. He added, “It will also serve as a catalyst to future economic development of the area…We believe we are on the right track to a revitalized downtown.”
To this end, a regional office of the Henry County Tourism Bureau will be installed in the depot so that travelers may ask questions about local attractions or browse through a variety of tourism brochures. During 2012, sidewalk repairs will enhance the downtown streetscape, and Kewanee officials are also seeking state assistance for other redevelopment projects that will strengthen the historic city core.
Chairman Carper, a former mayor of Macomb, Ill.—another community with Amtrak service—stated, “I know the value of Amtrak….Besides being a symbol of community pride, the railroad station is a driver of commerce…We can’t do any of this without good, solid, broad-based support on the local, state and federal levels.”
At the nearby Station House Restaurant, where the guest speakers were treated to breakfast, owner Ed Jacoby described the positive impacts that expanded rail service has had on his business—and expressed his excitement over the new depot. When the eatery opened 4 years ago, Jacoby honored his family’s past by choosing a railroad theme. Hearty breakfasts attract people from surrounding towns, and many choose to take the train from Galesburg, Macomb, and even Quincy.
Under the current train schedule, patrons can arrive aboard the east bound Illinois Zephyr, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and hop on the westbound Carl Sandburg later in the morning. Wednesdays are particularly busy, as people stop at the restaurant and then visit the farmers market down the block, which, according to Jacoby, all contributes to a “new look and energy” on Third Street.
The restauranteur believes that the depot will prove a boon to his business because now passengers will have a warm and comfortable place to wait for the train during the winter months. “The depot makes you take notice…it’s modern and sharp…and it’s a beacon to travelers,” says Jacoby. From the perspective of a business owner, he adds, “You have to invest in your own downtown to be successful—the depot is the heartbeat of our revitalization.” To meet demand, Jacoby is adding on a lounge, and the patio seating area will be moved from the west side of the building to the east so that it faces towards the depot.
When construction bids came in over budget in 2011, Kewanee decided to transfer money from its economic development fund to cover the cost increase and move the project forward. The city later applied for two state grants to help cover approximately half of the depot’s cost. $163,000 was gained through “Illinois Jobs Now!”, a six year, $31 billion statewide capital program supported by 20 year state bonds and federal and local matching funds. An additional $75,000 came through an Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant obtained by State Senator Darin LaHood and State Representative Don Moffitt, both of whom were at the dedication ceremony.
Kewanee is served by the Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg, which are financed primarily through funds made available by the Illinois Department of Transportation.