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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The groundbreaking ceremony by community and city leaders marks the official start of the $18 million Union Station renovation project.

Mayor Allen Joines said the money comes from limited obligation bonds, not voted for by city residents but within the original bond referendum.

Several councilmembers spoke at the groundbreaking and detailed the struggle to get to this point, and the importance the building has on the city’s history and the importance it will have economically on the city of Winston-Salem.

Mayor Pro Tempore and Councilwoman Vivian Burke mentioned she doesn’t like to take credit, but will for continuing to push this project into reality.

“There are neighbors who are not around now who worked very hard to say this needs to be more than just a place for a garage; it’s too much history here,” Burke said.

“When you come into Winston-Salem from I-40 from this way, you’ll see this great new facility, historic facility that is being restored to its highest possible level. You’ll see across the street that we’re now building a brand new parking space for our students but it’s an opportunity to speak to what happens when you get partners and then you have a visionary leader and you have folks who buy into that vision about making this city great,” Winston-Salem State University Chancellor Elwood Robinson said.

Students from WSSU attended the groundbreaking and tour as a part of their urban geography class.

Michelle Walter jokingly described herself as the “revocation doctor.” She, however, is the senior project designer with Walter Robbs Architecture and has been working with the city to restore the station to include modern usage while maintaining its classic charm.

“We came up with three design options here, we presented those to the city, they picked out what they wanted to accomplish, they reviewed that through the city council and had it approved. So that sort of served as our schematic design phase,” Walter said.

Union Station will serve as a local and regional bus terminal, city offices will occupy the middle and bottom floors for the Department of Transportation, tenant space will also be available for retail. The restoration will be designated to accommodate the possibility of regional and long distance passenger rail services.

The restoration will include all three floors approved by the state historic preservation office.

“We will have all three levels of preservation in one facility. This upper level will be a full restoration — almost museum quality, middle level will be a renovation, lower level will be rehabilitation,” Walter said. “Phase one is the hazmat issues, the selected demolition and the site grading and that is a four-month construction process.”

Phase two will begin immediately after and is said to take 18-24 months total to complete.