Could Pueblo’s old train station become the new train station?

A new proposal may change plans for an Amtrak and Front Range Rail station in Pueblo. County commissioners heard a presentation last week calling for the privately owned historic Union Depot to revert back to its original purpose of serving train passengers.

Local businessmen and attorneys Jim and Joe Koncilja own the elegantly restored 1889 station that now houses shops, offices and event space. They also own many of the nearby properties. Jim Koncilja told commissioners he doesn't think the plan for a new station fits with the existing area. He also said funds to build the project could be better used elsewhere in the community.

“I want rail service to come back down here,” Koncilja said. “I just think we can do it on a much smaller scale for a reasonable cost that isn’t going to tie a tin can to the public’s tail.”

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Pueblo Union Depot was heavily damaged by flooding that carried train cars crashing into its sides in 1921. Photographed on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.

Earlier this year, design consultants presented plans for constructing a contemporary-style building next to the historic depot. This design work is being paid for through the county’s 1A fund approved by voters in 2016.

Pueblo County Commissioner Daneya Esgar said she’s concerned about the original proposal to construct a new large station. There are no firm estimates yet for the cost of either version of the project although some ballpark figures for building a new station ranged between $12 million and $50 million.

Courtesy of WSP
Rendering of proposed Pueblo train station.

“I worry that it's just going to be too big of a price tag to ever come into existence,” Esgar said. “I don’t want that to stop us from being a part of the potential of Front Range Rail and Amtrak coming through Pueblo.”

The Konciljas paid the firm that worked on Denver’s Union Station’s reactivation to explore the idea of using their building. The concept was well received by the Pueblo county commissioners. After the presentation about using the former depot, the commissioners asked the consultants for both plans to look for a way to work together. A date for further discussion has not been set.

According to the Union Depot website, by 1892 some 51 trains a day run by five different railroads used to bring passengers to the stately red standsone station. The building survived the Great Pueblo Flood of 1921, but fell into disrepair after passenger train service stopped coming to the city during the last century.

A group of locals began renovating it in 1990 and the Konciljas purchased the building about ten years later and continued work on it. It features ornate woodwork, sparkling stained glass windows and now houses a large event space in the former passenger waiting area and office and retail space in the rest of the building.

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