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RESTORING THE PAST HISTORIC TRAIN DEPOT CRUMBLES AS MTA WEIGHS PRESERVATION.

Byline: Lisa Mascaro Staff Writer

NORTH HOLLYWOOD - The price tag for renovating the historic Lankershim train depot has jumped 70 percent to $2 million, MTA officials say, stalling the work and upsetting preservationists who worry the structure will be lost before it can be restored.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said they're considering various options, but residents say the agency is squandering the chance to save the 1896 depot.

``It needs to be shored up now,'' said resident Guy Weddington McCreary, who is leading a group trying to save the depot and has the backing of a local civic and conservation organizations. ``They need to keep working on this thing. They need to get on top of this problem real fast.''

However, the MTA is reluctant to fully restore the depot now as it tries to develop the property in a prime redevelopment area across from the Metro Red Line subway and the new Orange Line busway.

Instead, the MTA's focusing on sprucing up the site for the debut this fall of the Orange Line.

``We are committed to getting it looking good for today, then making it as healthy as possible, and then letting joint development take it from there,'' said Kevin Michel, director of San Fernando Valley area planning for the MTA.

``We want to leave some flexibility to the developer as to whether some possible movement of the depot is possible, though I think there's a lot of sentiment the depot could more than likely stay where it is.''

But residents vow to protest any attempts to relocate the depot, arguing a move would dilute its authenticity.

Councilman Tom LaBonge wants to get the depot renovated at the intersection.

``That's a very important building that has to be restored and put to a positive use,'' LaBonge said.

The project ran into trouble shortly after the MTA and the Community Redevelopment Agency set out to renovate the structure, which served both the Pacific Electric Red Cars and Southern Pacific Railroad.

The agencies committed $1.2 million to the project and expected to have work completed by 2003. But a series of delays derailed the project.

Now, improvement costs are estimated at $2 million.

Earlier this month, the MTA's Valley governance council stepped into the debate by asking what it would take to use the depot as a customer center where riders can get bus passes, schedules and information once it reopens.

That move won backing from the Southern California Transit Advocates, which has been concerned about the lack of customer centers.

The council's staff will study the issue.

``This is a first step,'' said Kymberleigh Richards, the Valley council member who initiated the study. ``What we are hoping to do is to once again provide a single location for all of our passengers' needs.''

But residents remain worried that the depot will only decay further as time goes by.

``It's really a sad state of affairs,'' Weddington said. ``When you think of your history like this and it's so close to your modern one. What a great contrast it is... between what transportation for rail and Red Car was 110 years ago, and today with the modern system across the street.''

Lisa Mascaro, (818) 713-3761

lisa.mascaro(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, map

Photo:

(1 -- 2) Guy Weddington McCreary and Richard Hilton are among those trying to save the historic Lankershim train depot. The 1896 depot, above, on Lankershim and Magnolia boulevards is crumbling as the MTA decides on its future.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer

Map:

Railroad depot

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 29, 2005
Words:593
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