Scaffolding goes up as Union Station begins a year of external maintenance

Union Station to undergo exterior cleaning and preservation

Union Station Vice President Jerry Baber and project manager David Lovetere explain what the project entails.
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Union Station Vice President Jerry Baber and project manager David Lovetere explain what the project entails.

The scaffolding that will envelop Union Station in stages over the next 12 months does not mean the 103-year-old structure is falling apart.

In fact, the idea is to make sure it lasts a lot longer.

A $1.6 million project will tuck point, clean and seal the entire limestone exterior of the building, starting with the north end of the long waiting room, facing downtown. Scaffolding can be seen there already. The final stage, covering the front facade of the depot, will be done next spring.

The work is necessary to replace loose caulking and to clean dark discoloration that is particularly visible near the roof line. The work is expected to keep the building in good shape for about 20 years.

“We’re going to take off the bio material that’s been building up on the outside of the station for the last 20 to 30 years,” said Jerry Baber, Union Station executive vice president and chief operating officer. “If we don’t address it, this material will continue to grow.”

The project is being paid for with Union Station operational funds and a preservation fund that receives $1 from each ticket sold to Science City and touring exhibits.

The work is not expected to disrupt normal business and other activities at Union Station.

The scope of the project is reflected in the materials required:

▪ The project will consume the equivalent of 1,200 tubes of caulking, said David Lovetere of MC Realty Group, which was hired by Union Station to help manage construction projects. By comparison, an average home would use 10 tubes.

▪ It will require more than 1,000 bags of mortar, compared to 10 bags to tuck point a typical brick or stone home.

▪ It will take 1,100 gallons of limestone cleaner, to be applied by hand by a 12-person work crew.

▪ Sealing the exterior will require 1,300 gallons of water repellent.

▪ And it will take 9,500 lineal feet of lead to protect skyward-facing stone joints from water penetration.

The project probably would not have been possible a few years ago when the station was experiencing chronic deficits.

“It is of critical importance to stay ahead of the curve in maintaining the beauty, integrity and longevity of our physical structures,” Union Station board chairman Bob Regnier said in a statement announcing the project. “This is one of the many advantages of ongoing financial success at the station ... being able to proactively put investment where it matters most.”

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC