Lula’s downtown depot has a fresh look, and the city’s newest event space honors its railroad heritage with some tech-savvy touches.
The building at 5911 Wall St. has been undergoing renovations since late last year. The space can seat about 100 people and has a catering station, restrooms, and tables with chairs. But one feature the City Council wanted to make sure to include is audiovisual equipment, including a new 82-inch television that will soon be installed in the space and come down from the ceiling.
City Manager Dennis Bergin said the depot’s grounds will also get WiFi, and so will other spaces in the city like the Veterans Park and the walking trails.
The building was extended by about six feet and has hardwood floors, wood trim and light fixtures that would fit in at an old-fashioned train depot.
“I call it the wow factor when you walk in. Compared to what we had, this has certainly set a new standard, which is what the council’s intentions were,” Bergin said.
Bergin said he hopes the depot can be part of Lula’s downtown development plans and help bring people downtown, playing off other improvements such as the Veterans Park and new businesses.
“We’re helping each other out, and hopefully that will transcend other properties as they’re being developed along the way,” he said.
The building has a porch with tables that can be used as a community gathering space.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people come up and watch trains. (The council) wanted to build a deck so people can come up, even when the facility’s not being rented, and still enjoy the grounds,” Bergin said.
The space will likely be available for rental starting in December, Bergin said. While the first phase of depot renovations focused on the building itself, the next phase, which will begin Oct. 7, will involve improving the grounds and stage area, along with adding some parking.
The first phase of renovations cost $252,000, while the second phase has a budget of about $178,000.
While locals call the building the “depot” because it sits near the city’s train tracks, it was never actually used for that purpose. The building was built in 1991. The Lula Area Betterment Association first built a pavilion on the property, then a full building when the space got more popular. The betterment association donated the depot to the city in 2017.
Wayne Clanton, a Lula resident who worked with Bergin to coordinate the project, said the renovations had been a “long road”— local contractors have been staying busy, which sometimes made organizing the project difficult. But he’s happy with the result and thinks the new space will be an asset to the community.
“I would hope it would make the community grow and inspire other businesspeople here in town to upgrade their places of business to meet our standard here,” Clanton said.
The city is now preparing to show the space at two upcoming events. Community members can see the depot at the ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. Sept. 27, or they can attend the open house Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“People can see, this is Lula and look what we can do,” Bergin said.