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Rail landmark costs Indianapolis

– A portion of the brick wall on the south side of Union Station collapsed late last year during a wind storm. The city spent $290,000 on repairs.

Last month, a piece of the 127-year-old building’s ceiling fell, costing the city another $60,000 to fix. The city is spending $600,000 to replace an escalator with an elevator to meet code requirements and renovate the lobby.

Seeing small projects pile up, city officials have launched an effort to assess the building’s condition with the most thorough inspection in several years.

The study, started by Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects this month, should take 30 to 60 days to complete at a cost to the city of $110,000. CSX, which operates the rail line running through Union Station, separately is gauging the condition of the tracks and is doing its own pricey inspection.

No one from the city is suggesting that Union Station is due for a major overhaul. But some basic upkeep and tuck pointing likely is in order, said Adam Thies, director of the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development.

For all its historical significance, the building is getting more expensive for the city to maintain. The tab was $1.7 million in 2012.

“The building takes 24 trains a day and it’s 100 years old,” Thies told the Indianapolis Business Journal. “It’s going to have issues at times, and this is part of that.”

The iconic structure that houses the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which is undergoing its own $8 million renovation, actually predates the 20th century. It opened in 1886.

Browning Day’s inspection will attempt to determine areas where repairs might be needed most, architect Greg Jacoby said.

“We felt that we ought to look at the whole structure and see if there’s a bigger problem or if it’s just isolated,” he said.

The inspection will be confined to the rail line portion of the station, where tenants are located, and will not include what’s known as The Grand Hall, the piece of Union Station that holds the most historical importance.

The building is in no danger of making Indiana Landmarks’ annual list of the state’s most endangered landmarks, mainly because of the city’s ownership and involvement in managing the property, said Mark Dollase, the nonprofit’s vice president of preservation services.

Yet it still demands Indiana Landmarks’ full respect.

“Union Station is one of the most important historic landmarks in downtown Indianapolis,” he said.