LAYTON -- When Hal D. Renfro sold the old train depot building, he thought it would be demolished as part of the Layton Parkway project. So he was a bit surprised a week ago when he was driving through Layton and saw the building still standing next to the FrontRunner station.
"I got the impression, from what they told me prior to purchasing it, that they were going to have to tear it down," Renfro said. "But nothing seems to have changed. It's slightly below grade, but is still visible and still usable."
As part of the Layton Parkway construction, the Utah Department of Transportation bought the building because no one knew how the historic building would fare with the new road construction. Because the building is not transportation-related, UDOT cannot continue ownership much longer.
Unbeknownst to Renfro, who said he did not want to sell the building, he will have first shot at buying the building back.
"UDOT is committed to doing everything we can to find a use for the building harmonious with the area and the wishes of the people of Layton, but therein lies the challenge," said Vic Saunders, UDOT Region One spokesman. "We know that Layton is looking for some type of opportunity to develop that building. We would certainly support that, but there is a pecking order."
Saunders said that the previous owner would be first in line to purchase the building when UDOT sells, so that means Renfro will have to decide if he wants to be the owner again.
Renfro, who lives in La Jolla, Calif., was unaware that he will have the first shot at purchasing the historic building. Before UDOT sells the building, it will have to hire an architectural firm to asses what type of renovations are needed to preserve the building.
"I'm somewhat interested in buying it," Renfro said after being told of the opportunity. "I wouldn't be opposed to doing something with it in keeping with what the city would want."
City officials knew there would be four options for the building after the parkway was completed. The first option was to keep the building in place. If that was not possible, they would have to either move it slightly north or substantially north. The final option was demolition.
"Fortunately, it does not have to move," said Bill Wright, Layton's community and economic development director. "Original designs showed there would be more impact than there is."
Because the building is home to a lot of local history, city officials and residents want to have it stay as a fixture in the city.
"The goal would be to have it be a train station like it originally was," Wright said. "We definitely would want to have a concession center, maybe a restaurant."
Wright said the city has $200,000 set aside from a Community Development Block Grant that will be available to be loaned to whoever buys the building. The new owner can use that money to renovate the building.
The building is actually the second train depot in Layton. Built in 1911, the building replaced the first, smaller train depot that sat west of where Main Street intersects with Gentile Street. Veterans Park now occupies that space.
In 1972 the building was moved south to where it is now. However instead of facing the railroad tracks like the depot did at the original location, it faces away from the tracks.
Over the summer, city officials had an initial walkthrough to take a brief inventory of the condition inside.
"People were surprised when we walked throughout it at how well-preserved it was," said Peter Matson, Layton city planner.
Along with the Layton history, the train depot is unique. That is another reason city officials want to have an operating building.
"It's really the only historic train station that is directly oriented to FrontRunner platforms," Wright said. "We have the opportunity to have a commuter rail train station and a building that has functioned as a train station."