Wow. Just wow.
In 1898, Burlington Station was built to make a big impression -- there was a world's fair going on in the young city on the Plains, and the message to Trans-Mississippi Exposition visitors was to be singular from the moment they stepped off the train.
Everything is up to date in Omaha.
A century and change later, steam locomotives have gone the way of T. Rex (both the dinosaur and the band), and old Burlington Station has been something of a fossil itself. The last Burlington Northern passenger train pulled off into the sunset in 1971, and then-new Amtrak abandoned the depot in 1974 for much smaller, cheaper-to-maintain digs next door.
So there it has sat for almost 40 years . . . alone in its faded glory.
Likewise for the last four decades, Omahans have driven down 10th Street, glanced over from the viaduct and thought "Somebody really needs to do something with Burlington Station."
WEDNESDAY, somebody stepped up to do something with Burlington Station. KETV announced that a renovated Burlington would be the new, bigger and state-of-the-art home for Channel 7 in a couple of years.
Ariel Roblin, president and general manager of KETV, said Wednesday that the television station has been at 2665 Douglas St. for 50 years, a time of significant change for broadcasting. Station officials, looking for a larger, updated facility, considered several sites and were attracted by the chance to bring a historic building back to life while gaining more operating space.WOW. Just wow.
The project represents a multimillion-dollar investment in Omaha, she said, but she declined to estimate the total cost.
“It allows us to move with the technology,” Roblin said. “We looked at all kinds of options, but this one really made sense to us because it exemplifies what we do. Bringing back an old building to something beautiful and used and honored is important to us.”
KETV's plan calls for restoring the building's exterior to its historic appearance, Roblin said, which may qualify for preservation tax credits, and installing the newest technology inside.“One of the things that rang the most true was everyone's memories of being in this building,” she said. “We haven't finalized the plans for the interior yet, but we do have in mind that there is probably going to be some area that people will be able to access so that they can experience what we've done and may take a trip down memory lane for themselves.”
The news operation would be on the building's first floor, with administration, advertising and other departments on the second floor. The site has ample parking. Roblin said plans for the 2665 Douglas property are uncertain.
Constructed in 1898 and extensively remodeled in 1930, the limestone and brick depot has been vacant, while the Union Station just to the north was restored and turned into the Durham Museum, housing historic Omaha artifacts and related exhibits.