When rebuilding the observation tower, existing brick was taken down to
a constant course, which allowed new brick to blend at the match line.
For 38 years, the Pere Marquette Depot sat boarded up, broken down, and fire damaged. The Prairie-style building, with its distinctive orange iron-brick walls, was once the elegant Bay City, Mich., train station. The facility, which opened in 1904, served the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad Company when the area was the epicenter of lumber processing for the shipbuilding and kit homebuilding industries.
In 1953, the 9,300-sf depot underwent an atomic-age modernization to convert it into a Greyhound bus terminal. Classical features like the 66-foot-high observation tower, wraparound canopy, ornamental metal brackets, and porte-cochere were demolished. After the bus station closed in 1969, the property sat vacant for more than three decades.
It took the depot's owner, Great Lakes Center Foundation, from 2002 to 2005 to patch together $3.85 million from local, state, and national sources to begin an extensive but frugal renovation that would bring the building back to life as a community center run by the local Convention and Visitor's Bureau and as offices for the Bay Area Community Foundation.
The Building Team, headed by Quinn Evans | Architects of Ann Arbor, Mich., with local firms Gregory Construction as GC and MacMillan Associates Inc. as engineer, had a mess on its hands. The masonry walls were in decent shape, but the foundation was undermined and the interior was devastated by toxic pigeon guano and fire and water damage, which destroyed most of the ornamental plaster walls and ceilings. The mechanical equipment, boiler, piping, plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, and most of the wiring had been stripped.
The Building Team salvaged the wainscoting and most of the windows and doors, replaced missing tiled canopies, the Spanish clay tile roof, and the observation tower, and repositioned the depot for use as a twenty-first-century community and office building. Although the project did not seek LEED certification, recycled content, low-VOC materials, low-flow plumbing fixtures, radiant heating, and light-sensor controls were used.
“They've done a wonderful job with both the interior and exterior work,” said Reconstruction Awards judge David Callan, SVP Environmental Systems Design, Chicago. Fellow judge Ken Osmun, group president of construction at Wight & Co., Darien, Ill., marveled at the project's bang for the buck. “The budget was so low and they had to make the depot the focal point of the community. I can't imagine the challenges they had to overcome.” —Jay W. Schneider, Senior Editor