Community gets on board with Amtrak station transformation

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The busiest train station in South Carolina will close it's doors when a new rail center is built blocks away in North Charleston. And now with the help of the North Charleston community, brainstorming is under way to transform old station once the move is made.

Benches are changing color, paint has finally lost its grip and rusted barbed wire looms high above the tracks at the North Charleston Amtrak Station. The station has weathered 55 long years and is finally being given an opportunity for a make over.

"It's been a long time coming," says Liberty Hill resident Mary Mallette. "We can't wait."

Mallette and other members of the Liberty Hill community in North Charleston were invited to a meeting to voice their opinion of what should happen to the aging station while a new station is developed down the road over the next few years.

And the idea that continued to surface over the two community brainstorming sessions scheduled for Thursday, a Civil Rights Museum.

"This is a very historical community," says long time Liberty Hill resident James Lecque.

Lecque remembers taking the train back and forth to New York City and he thinks an educational center is just the beginning.

"It would be a wonderful place to have a vegetable market because its centrally located," says Lecque, exploring other options for the space in the future. "I think we ought to do everything we can to get people to come to that location."

As ideas filled up the wall at the community center, A.J. Davis, Vice President of the Lowcountry Alliance of Model Communities, was filled with pride.

"North Charleston as a whole, given the fact that we often sit in the shadow of downtown Charleston which gets the billing as being the historic city," says Davis, "would give us a significant boost."

Especially in the history department.

Frances Ford, a preservation consultant, says the swap to a museum could really impact the North Charleston community in a positive way.

"It's the perfect building to have any exhibit or a museum," says Ford. "It's going to be a really great teaching tool if that's going to be the direction the community decides to go."

And even though the station is older, it doesn't mean it's not doing business. Amtrak says at least 1,500 passengers file through train cars on the Charleston platform per week and they've got four trains rolling through daily.

Amtrak's media relations department in Washington, D.C. estimates almost 80,000 people made their way on and off trains at the North Charleston depot last year making it the busiest of all stations in South Carolina.

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