Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland announced during a meeting of the Cleveland Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Committee that Evans intends to retire on June 30.
“Ray has meant so much to us in this community and across Southeast Tennessee,” Rowland said. The mayor said he wants to recognize Evans in front of an “appropriate audience so they will know how Ray has touched the community. A lot of good things have happened due to his passion for better communities throughout Southeast Tennessee. We don’t want to let you go unnoticed or let you feel unappreciated.”
Evans said he considered retirement about two years ago, “but I wanted to stay until we finished the projects we had going. The depot and the building in Chattanooga are the last things we’ve got on the drawing board,” he said. “I wanted to stay and see this depot finished because it has been a dream, not just of mine, but of the elected officials in the city and county, Planning Director Greg Thomas and so many others.”
He said people often pass by the depot on Edwards Street S.E. and reminisce.
“I’m so pleased this has happened. You would not believe the number of people who are excited about seeing this old depot restored. People go by and look at it all the time — people who used to be in the railroad business go by and check on it. People who were in the wars caught trains and left their loved ones to go off into the service.”
The depot will still function as a transportation hub though its purpose will serve the Cleveland Urban Area Transit System instead of the railroad.
Evans envisions the bus traffic helping to revitalize the Five Points area. The depot will feature a historical display and small retail area in the lobby where dispatchers will be stationed. The north end of the building is reserved for offices and the south end will be a break room for drivers. There will be a total of about 30 employees moving to the building.
Tri-Con Construction is renovating the depot that was built in 1909 at a cost of $17,400, including the property. It was placed on the National and Tennessee Register of Historic Places in April 2008.
The most obvious part of the project is the red roof adorning the building. The roof will have the appearance of the original terra cotta tile, but the new tiles are actually aluminum. The modern tiles are much lighter than the clay tiles that added about 2 tons of weight on the roof.
A north wall was added to enclose the area to apparently make room for a freight dispatcher after passenger service ended in the late 1970s. The wall and raised platform have been removed and the open space restored using original paving bricks. Two observation windows in the original outside wall that were bricked over have been put back.
The depot was restored in two phases. The first phase included grading the entrance and exit to the property, building retaining walls, replacing a section of sewer line and manhole, and erecting a fence between the depot and railroad tracks.
The $208,000 for Phase I was a 100 percent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 grant through the Federal Transit Administration to the local transit system and SETHRA. The second and final phase was paid for by an 80/20 matching Transportation Enhancement program, also using ARRA funds passed through the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the city of Cleveland.
The federal government’s share is $451,000 and SETHRA will be responsible for about $113,000.