Union Station Depot
An Update on Our Biggest Project Ever
Click any photo to enlarge. You can control a slide show with left and right arrows or on mobile devices by sliding images left and right.
As many of you know, we've been quietly working
to get the Depot project moving ahead.
Here's a brief progress report:
A Big Thank You. We want to thank everyone who has helped make this project possible. We still have a long way to go to but we're on the way. There are so many to thank for their contributions of time, money, and talent and we'll be doing that in a more formal way soon. Hundreds of families and individuals and several businesses have contributed to our progress so far. THANK YOU!
Where We're Going. In partnership with the City of New Bern, our goal is to restore the Depot to its architectural glory while adaptively re-using it in a way that delivers a "wow" for the community. Our concept plans would allow office uses on the second floor and retail or restaurant uses on the first floor along with a community meeting space that celebrates the railroad heritage of New Bern. This heritage space is currently planned for the Baggage Room on the first floor which was completed in late 2015.
Next Phase - Finishing the First Floor. While the first floor Baggage Room has been fully rehabilitated, the rest of first floor needs to be completed in a similar fashion. Our next phase of work is to rehabilitate the remainder of the first floor to rough shell space suitable for a tenant to consider. Thanks to David Griffith and Tripp Eure of MBF Architects for all their work to investigate the Depot's original construction and then detail out a project in more than 50 pages of drawings to restore the woodwork and rehabilitate the first floor to rough shell space. In late July, MBF requested bids to do the remainder of the first floor beginning in the early Fall. We've received bids on this work and are evaluating them now and would expect the City to formally contract with the winning bidder in the next month.
What Success Looks Like. Our slide show above features three architectural renderings of the completed Depot done by Rendering House of Holly Springs, NC. They were created using detailed computer-aided design drawings created by our architectural firm MBF Architects and illustrate the finished exterior and one possible cafe style use of the waiting room that faces Queen Street. In addition to the renderings you'll see a sample of the drawings that MBF produced as well as some photos of existing conditions. You'll see that the wood detail is handsome even its deteriorated condition and you'll get a strong sense of how it will look when restored as you look at the interior rendering and elevations of doors and window.
Four More Years. Along with representatives of the City, we recently met with the top staff of the North Carolina Railroad to request a four year extension of the City's license to complete the Depot's rehabilitation and to find the right tenants to adaptively re-use it. We expect to hear about the extension by the end of August and will keep you updated on this.
The Bottom Line. We've developed a budget and timeline to finish the Depot. Our estimate, prepared by MBF Architects, is that we'll need about $1.2 million more to finish the rehabilitation and restoration portion of the project plus about $400,000 in potential tenant upfits, depending on the type of tenant. There is the possibility that we can accelerate this work once tenants are committed to taking Depot space.
Projects like this require persistence, resources, and leadership. With funds from our community and a large NCDOT grant for the roof of the building, we have raised over $850,000. Thanks again to everyone who has helped get the Depot this far. We'll keep you updated as work on the first floor begins.
How Does Our Garden Grow?
Dean and Bonnie Refinski-Knight Eat Healthily Year Round from Their Garden on Two 25x25 Plots.
Nature's magic happens behind their late 1800's Home in the Downtown Historic District.
See Dean and Bonnie's Story below the slideshow.
Click any photo to enlarge and control the slide show with left and right arrows or on mobile devices by sliding images left and right.
You might not expect to find something resembling a small succesful farm in a New Bern backyard , but it’s there at the home of Dean Knight and Bonnie Refinski-Knight on two 25x25 foot plots.
If that isn’t surprising enough, at least one of their major agricultural methods of gardening at their home, double-digging, came by way of Togo in west Africa. Bonnie and Dean met there as Peace Corps volunteers more than 30 years ago when Dean was managing construction of agricultural and well projects and Bonnie was teaching agriculture to primary school students. The method she taught was double digging gardens, a form of bio-intensive farming, and that’s the method Bonnie and Dean used to create their home garden in the early 2000s. Thanks to this method of gardening and a mild climate their backyard garden provides produce year round.
When Bonnie and Dean returned from the Peace Corps, Bonnie got her law degree and Dean got a Masters in Education. Ultimately they wanted to be close to a major body of water and settled here in New Bern. Bonnie is an attorney and Dean retired in 2013 after working with Tryon Palace for almost 25 years. They lived in several old house in the downtown historic district before buying their current home in 2000 at 624 East Front Street. They raised the house by four feet, added a master bedroom, and, of course, planted a garden. And their garden has something being planted or grown year round.
Dean says, "the garden planting begins on 21 December (the shortest day) of each year with the planting of garlic and shallots. They are harvested on the longest day of the year, 21 June. Next would be Irish potatoes planted on 17 March (Saint Patricks Day) with harvest beginning 85 days later. I also plant edible pod English peas at the same time as the potatoes. The summer plantings (15 May) includes lettuces, tomatoes, herbs, egg plant, peas (on tall stakes), okra, squash, peppers, and radishes. The fall garden is planted in August with collards, Kales, cabbages, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, and leeks."
In addition to growing seasonal produce, Bonnie and Dean have a mini-orchard of four fruit trees: fig, pear, pomegranate, and apple. Their olive tree didn't thrive, but they now have a bountiful bay tree that is more of a bay bush. In addition to their fruit trees the herbs they grow include basil, cilantro, parsley, sage, thyme, dill, and mint.
A ninety-two year old brick mason built their two compartment compost bin that anchors a side of their garden and is surrounded by fruit trees. On the same 25x25 plot with the fruit trees and compost, the Knights have a chicken coop for their three hens that produce eggs daily. Like most store bought eggs, the eggs they produce are infertile, and thus no rooster is needed and no crowing occurs, just the gentle clucking of the various hens. The hens live a good life and are free to roam the fenced plot outside of the coop.
Dean and Bonnie are so smitten by the farming life and growing food that they are selling their home and searching for five to ten acres nearby on which to create that perfect small family farm. They plan to grow more food and to sell some in the marketplace so that others can enjoy some of nature's finest.
A Note to our Readers - This is the first in an occasional series of articles that feature New Bern residents and their historic homes. We'd love to find other interesting stories to tell you. Please send us suggestions for stories and gives us your comments on this one. You can email us at and if you put the words "story idea" or "story comment" in the subject line that will make it just a bit easier for us to identify.