NIAGARA FALLS – The signs are up, and the new Amtrak train station at 825 Depot St. is being officially unveiled to the public with an open house Saturday. The only thing missing is a lease with the major tenant of the train station – Amtrak.
The City of Niagara Falls has invited the public to join in a Niagara Falls Amtrak Community Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, which is being billed as a “sneak preview” of the $43 million train station complex, between Whirlpool and Main streets. It’s a journey that has taken more than a decade to complete.
But trains won’t be stopping at the station for at least another month, or possibly the end of summer, according to city officials.
The City Council approved a lease Monday with Homeland Security, which will operate a border patrol office in the restored 1863 Customs House, attached to the station. The city also approved more than a million dollars worth of change orders to finish the construction contract. But no deal with Amtrak was on the agenda.
“Amtrak is part of it. Homeland security is part of it,” Thomas J. DeSantis, acting director of planning and economic development, said of the tenants in the new train station. “But we are still going back and forth about what [Amtrak] wants in and what we want in.”
He said the lease approved with Homeland Security on Monday was contingent upon signing a lease with Amtrak.
“We don’t have a crystal ball to predict an opening date,” said DeSantis. “But it’s not us. It’s dependent on them.”
One of the change orders was for work to complete the Harriet Tubman plaza outside the station, which is expected to complement the Underground Railroad Museum on the first floor of the Customs House. The additional cost for the plaza, which includes an outdoor theater and interpretive area, will be reimbursed by the Underground Railroad Heritage Commission.
So Community Days will be a chance to preview the new station on Saturday, but eager riders will still have to wait before they can take a train ride into or out of Niagara Falls.
Visitors will be able to take a self-guided tour of the station Saturday, get a snack from a food truck or local vendors, sample wines from local wineries, meet representatives of local attractions, take a free guided tour of the Great Gorge Railway trail and learn more about the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. There will also be children’s activities.