Keeper of the Plans

Finally, downtown’s renovated Union Station will be open for tours next month

It’s been many years in the making, but Wichitans will be able to walk through a restored Union Station next month.

Occidental Management, which has been renovating the cavernous terminal building for the past year, will host a “grand opening” from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at the site, 701 E. Douglas.

Occidental has been redeveloping the five-building Union Station campus for six years now.

During this free event, the public can wander through the terminal, enjoy live music, family activities, and buy food and drinks from the Pour House.

Local singer Amanda Zogelmann will perform the National Anthem at the beginning of the event.

Gary Oborny, chairman and CEO of Occidental Management, bought Union Station’s five buildings in 2013 for $1.5 million, the most prominent of which being the 1914-built terminal.

Union Station was Wichita’s downtown train hub from 1914 until 1979, when passenger rail service was ended in Wichita. The building sat vacant until 1982, when Multimedia Cablevision bought it and spent $3 million for an office remodel.

It served as headquarters for that company — which was eventually bought out and rebranded as Cox Communications Kansas — until Cox moved to a bigger space at 901 George Washington Blvd. in 2007.

After sitting on the market for five years, the Cox-owned building was purchased by Oborny, who embarked on a three-phase multimillion-dollar redevelopment project.

The first phase of renovation included adding food kiosks on its plaza and renovations of the one-time Grand & Patrick Hotel, the former Rock Island Depot and Rock Island Baggage Depot.

Now those spaces are filled by businesses including Scooter’s Coffeehouse, Smoothie King, Pour House, Great Clips, The Dapper Doughnut and 8 Below rolled ice cream.

Work on the terminal — phase two of the project — began last year.

Two tenants have already secured space in the terminal building - Virginia-based company Faneuil expects to house about 400 call-center employees there, and local business Jenny Dawn Cellars plans to open an urban winery in one of the new spaces.

The third phase involves building a parking garage and an additional 30,000 square feet of space in a new building.

But will Union Station ever be home to passenger rail again? There have been pushes for Amtrak to service Wichita for decades now, but so far nothing has come of those efforts.

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Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.