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January 11, 2012 7:00 AM CST

Union Depot is restored back to life

Restoration case study


The Union Depot restoration and reconstruction project is estimated at $243 million.

The Union Depot restoration and reconstruction project is estimated at $243 million.
“We’re bringing the Union Depot back to life so the next generation can enjoy it,” says Mortenson Construction Superintendent Glenn VanHeel. “It’s very exciting.”

Located in downtown St. Paul near the Mississippi River, the Union Depot Multi-Modal Transit Center represents the next stage in the St. Paul-Minneapolis region’s transportation future, according to the Ramsey County Web site. The depot is the St. Paul termination point to its sister modal station located in downtown Minneapolis. The Central Corridor Light Rail Transit project is currently under construction; an 11-mile span of light rail system which will connect the two.

The Union Depot restoration and reconstruction project is estimated at $243 million which includes federal funding of approximately $143 million.

The first St. Paul Union Depot was destroyed by fire in 1915. Reconstruction of the current building was com- pleted in 1923, and in 1974 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

“First and foremost, we want to preserve the historic integrity of the structure,” VanHeel says. “This place was full of hustle and bustle with people and trains in the 1920s. The concourse area is a very unique piece of ar- chitecture in light of the time period it was built. You don’t see this type of old stone work anymore. The arched plaster ceilings, the old steel windows, the glass. It’s all being restored. The brick and stone piers and walls, all the details that show the horse drawn carriages, oxen and cart.”

Knowing it was going to be a difficult job with detailing, they have the “cream of the crop” working on the masonry. Workers were field tested to qualify to do the distinctive, intricate work which requires upgrades to the structure while retaining its historical craftsmanship.

Bill Dentinger of B & D Masonry, St. Paul, Minn., says his crew of about eight is setting Indiana limestone, in particular archways that are over the front entrance, building rooms and entrance ways on the train deck waiting area. They’ll be completed for the most part by the end of December.

“It’s a neat little building,” Dentinger says. “It’s a tough thing to do though; work on a 100-year-old building using new construction detail and methods.”

Dustin Sly, project manager for American Masonry Restoration, Fridley, Minn., has about 10 members working on the job site. Their tasks include interior and exterior building cleaning, repointing brick and stone masonry joints, resetting and replacing stone, and marble and terracotta repair and replacement. “We’ve worked on historic buildings before, but to work on such a large structure with 20 other trades is ex- tremely unusual,” Sly says. “Our project covers approximately 120,000 square feet. It cleans up pretty well. It just takes a little bit of testing to find the right product.”

The job was detailed well from the start so they haven’t encountered many surprises. He expects his crew to be on the job site through August 2012.

Joe Becker, VP of the stone division at Twin City Tile and Marble (TCTM) in St. Paul, Minn., has a crew of about seven on site. They are refinishing the Tennessee marble floors and installing new Tennessee marble steps, base and floors. Tasks also include refinishing the existing granite steps and platforms and installing new granite paving. Terrazzo work includes new and refinished with new terrazzo tiling.

“It’s quite a large scope of work,” Becker says. “It’s a challenge because of the number of trades and the amount of paperwork stemming from state and federal financial involvement.”

Because the structure is an existing building, versus new construction, there are many more people on sight, too. Mock ups were completed before work began to set realistic expectations.

“The architects have been real good to work with,” he says. “They understand a 100-year old building won’t look brand new.” TCTM should be done by the end of August 2012.

Adam Bauchle, project manager and estimator for Carciofini Company, Burnsville, Minn., has about three crew members working on masonry block and stonework, architectural precast, expansion joints, traffic coat- ings, and the granite stairs and all caulking.

“It’s been an interesting project because you’re dealing with all existing conditions,” he says. “There have been no surprises and it will look pretty cool when it’s done.”

The crew should be done by early summer 2012.

In terms of safety, Mortenson continues to hold fast to a strong safety culture, including stretching exercises every morning, plan-of-the-day meetings at 6:30 a.m. and worker orientation and reorientation.

The redevelopment of the Union Depot will be complete by the end of 2012 and the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit will open for service in 2014.

“It’s going well,” VanHeel says. “In fact, we’re one-half hour ahead of schedule.”

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About the Author

Patricia Johnson can be reached at or 952-891-3276.

Reprinted with permission from the BAC Local #1 MN-ND Quarterly Update.


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