City, Historic Salisbury Foundation negotiating sale of Salisbury Depot

Published 6:09 pm Thursday, March 3, 2022

SALISBURY — The city is seeking federal funding as it negotiates with Historic Salisbury Foundation to purchase and renovate the Salisbury Station on Depot Street.

City Council members on Tuesday gave the green light for city staff to seek a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant to aid the purchase and renovation of the historic station, located at 215 Depot St. The foundation has owned the property since 1984, and it currently houses the foundation’s offices.

The Salisbury Railway Passenger Station was built in 1908 in a Spanish Mission style and served as a main station between Washington D.C. and Atlanta. In 1976, the station was formally recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, deeming it a landmark. But the rise of the automobile industry in the 20th century meant the station lay vacant for many years before HSF purchased the property from the North Carolina Railroad Company and Norfolk Southern Company.

The foundation purchased it for pennies compared to the more than $3 million that’s been invested to “restore it and bring it back to the beauty it has today,” said HSF Board of Trustees President Steve Cobb. The first phase of restoration opened four office spaces, and the second opened the Grand Waiting Room to host special events. In 1996, office space was added and renovations were completed.

Since then, the foundation has headquartered its operations at the Salisbury Station. Additionally, the station houses an Amtrak station, the Crescent, the Carolinian and the Piedmont passenger trains as well as Studio 35, a creative studio.

The resolution approved by council members this week allows the city to submit an application for up to $8 million in funding to purchase the property and transform it into “a true transit hub,” said City Engineer Wendy Brindle.

Brindle said NCDOT studies suggest a number of improvements to expand and improve transportation access. Last year, the city approved an agreement with NCDOT to add a platform on the east side of the railroad tracks with access via an underground tunnel. Other improvements will better accommodate intercity transit buses, long-distance buses such as the Greyhound, private carriers and bicycle and pedestrian options, Brindle said.

“Making the Salisbury Historic Depot a true transit hub, while retaining the character of the area, would allow safe travels via multiple modes of transportation, while increasing Amtrak ridership and diverting vehicle trips through multiple counties,” Brindle said. “Because of the great potential to increase ridership along the Piedmont corridor, the city has the opportunity to apply for federal funding through the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) program.  If successful, federal funds will be combined with approved state and local funds to purchase and renovate the station.”

Cobb told the Post the property originally was intended to be a “revolving fund property,” meaning that it would be purchased, stabilized and sold with restrictive covenants to maintain the historic integrity. But it has become a “de-facto permanent property,” with the foundation renting the space for weddings, banquets and other special events to help cover the cost of continued maintenance.

Cobb said the city approached the foundation recently with the idea to purchase the station and transform it into a transportation center. While there have been appraisals, a purchase price hasn’t been finalized.

The foundation could arrange in negotiations to remain headquartered at the depot, but it’s more likely they’ll set up shop elsewhere. With the city taking over, it will “free us from the expense and responsibility of maintaining this beautiful old structure,” Cobb said. Additionally, the funds from the purchase will allow the foundation to concentrate on its mission of preserving the historic fabric of Salisbury and acquiring other distressed properties to restore them.

Cobb said the station has become synonymous with Salisbury.

“It’s not being used for its best purpose right now,” Cobb said. “The city gets back a beautifully restored building … and it gets it into a use that’s much better than how it’s been used.”

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at or call her at 704-797-4246.

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