In early December 2013, Amtrak staff met with city officials in Needles, Calif. to tour El Garces, a historic Harvey House the city is rehabilitating to serve as an intermodal transportation center. An indoor waiting area will replace a nearby shelter on the platform currently used by passengers.
To ensure the new passenger waiting area meets Amtrak and ADA standards, the design team consulted the Amtrak Station Program and Planning Guidelines, available on the Great American Stations website, and worked with Amtrak staff. A strong partnership between the station owner and Amtrak, as well as other stakeholders such as the host railroad, helps ensure renovation and new construction projects are planned and budgeted appropriately.
El Garces was constructed of durable concrete and opened in 1908. It operated as a hotel and restaurant within the famed Fred Harvey chain until 1949; subsequently, it served as office space for the Santa Fe Railway until 1988 when it was shuttered. Consideration was given to demolishing the building, but in 1993 the Friends of the El Garces, Inc. formed and petitioned the city to purchase and renovate the station. Needles bought the structure in 1999 and since then has worked to create a development plan and raise funds for renovation.
The city expects to finish the rehabilitation by spring 2014, to include installation of mechanical systems and utilities and the build-out of the waiting room, restrooms and a multi-purpose space available for gatherings. The chamber of commerce and a California Welcome Center (the city is on the border with Arizona) also plan to occupy parts of the building, and the city eventually hopes to attract commercial/retail tenants. Work on the historic structure has largely been financed with funds made available through the Federal Transit Administration.
Read more about the city’s progress in the Needles Desert Star.