BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — For more than a year now, local historic preservationists have been trying to help people visualize what the 130-year-old Sumner Train Station might one day look like with enough money and effort. That visualization effort just got a little bit easier.
Ordiz Melby Architects has put together a two-minute video animation that helps the imagination-challenged see what the old, but massive, Union Pacific Train Depot might look like with an infusion of investment and creative renovation.
Bakersfield City Councilman Andrae Gonzales, whose 2nd Ward includes Old Town Kern and the train station so important to the city’s development, has led the charge to preserve and restore the landmark. He sees it as the primary catalyst of a renaissance of this once thriving section of the city – same as old, renovated train stations have done in blighted sections of other cities — and he has been working the phone looking for buyers, lessors, and/or occupants – and he’s on a strict timetable. The city has a maintenance lease with Union Pacific that runs until summer.
Gonzales believes the animation can help convince the right group of the possibilities.
“This is really an essential piece to Old Town Kern,” Gonzales said. “You can’t demolish the most historically beautiful structure in Old Town Kern and then turn around and say you want to redevelop Old Town Kern. It just doesn’t work. You can’t square those two thoughts. You’ve got to save the Sumner Depot if you really have a heart for giving Old Town Kern a fighting chance to develop.”
Gonzales is happy to narrate a tour of the Ordiz-Melby animation.
“It takes you from the east and it flies along Sumner Street westbound,” he said, “so you capture, first, the western portion of the building and the southern facing half of the Sumner depot. There you have sort of drive through lane with lots of landscaping, lush landscaping and beautiful trees and you have exposed brick so behind all of this stucco is the original brick facade of the train depot and I think the intent of the fly-through, and those architects who created this fly-through video, was to capture that feature of that brick facade.
“All of the windows remain intact. Nothing like it in town. But these windows are something that will remain intact as we preserve the building. And then the video loops around to the north side of the building and captures what can be there – a lot of outdoor seating, a lot of space for people, for families to enjoy lunch, or dinner perhaps, and just recreate. So it really, for me, suggests that this is really a gathering space, a community gathering space.”
Gonzales says it’s too early to start naming names and announcing uses, but he says there’s been progress.
“There’s been a number of people who have approached me about some of their ideas of how to make this project work, how to finance a project,” he said. “Certainly, there’s an upfront cost that is enormous in terms of getting this building back to code and functional use, you know, retrofitting the building, making sure that it is safe, and then also adapting it so that it can find a new life, such as a public market. It is not cheap, but it will be an investment. But there again, I think that we can find the right incentives, perhaps some grant opportunities, that can make it work and make it pencil.”
Everybody seems to like the idea of old buildings made new again, not everybody likes the idea of spending a few million dollars to do it, but could a realistic vision of what that renewal might look like move the needle? People like Andre Gonzales are counting on it.