Northfield Depot

The Northfiled Depot sits at its new location on the edge of the Q-Block in Northfield. Volunteers and city leaders are hoping to develop the area to facilitate a transit hub and public parking. (Philip Weyhe/Northfield News)

Northfield leaders are hoping to receive some help in transforming the Q-block.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Northfield City Council approved a resolution supporting an application by the city and Hiawathaland Transit for a Minnesota Department of Transportation grant. If received, the money would help fund improvements in the Q-block, the new location of the Northfield Depot.

The hope, as of now, is to make $2.3 million in improvements, including a transit hub, landscaping and public parking. City staff hope to see about 75 percent of that paid through grant funding and 25 percent from the city. The totals are rough estimates and will likely be modified by the time the grant application is submitted.

In January 2016, thanks to the efforts of Save The Northfield Depot, the structure moved from its old location to a new spot between Second and Third streets on the west side of Hwy. 3, known as the Q-Block. Since then, the organization has been hard at work on renovations, reinvigorating the depot inside and out to repair the structure and restore its original look.

Save The Northfield Depot’s Alice Thomas told the council in June that more than 2,500 volunteer hours have been recorded in the last 12 months, and there are plenty of unrecorded hours as well. The group is now eyeing completion of the renovation, though there is plenty left to do.

At that time, Mayor Rhonda Pownell and councilors noted the depot project creates a “fantastic opportunity” for development in the Q-Block area. That includes a potential transit hub with a driveway, some public parking and some landscaping.

The City Council previously agreed to set aside $150,000 for a transit hub to accompany the Depot, but there would be about $250,000 in just site work costs, and the full vision for the area is estimated at over $2 million.

Knowing a funding gap existed, city staff reached out to Hiawathaland to see if there were other options. Hiawathaland has since helped staff to prepare a grant application, which now has council approval. The city and Hiawathaland plan to apply for the grant before the end of July deadline, but even if the project is funded, site work wouldn’t start until at least spring 2019, according to City Engineer Dave Bennett.

The site work is what’s required to make the property suitable for transit operations. That includes a driveway for buses with an entrance off Second Street and an exit onto Third. Costs also include design, curbing and conduit for future lighting.

Other expenses not included in the site work include stairways, landscaping, a trail, pavilion, locating an overhead power line and parking lot lights.

The big picture design for the depot site includes a renovated depot (almost complete) and a matching transit hub building with rest rooms and a waiting area on the other side of a central pavilion. Beyond that, city leaders are considering the potential for adding parking, and sprucing up the area.

All of that requires funding that leaders hope to secure through the MnDOT grant.

Reach Associate Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-645-1115 or follow him on Twitter @nfnphilweyhe.

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