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City Woos Developers for Main Street Station

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There's a lot at stake. For more than two years the city's Department of Economic Development has been pitching the project to developers and entrepreneurs as far away as Las Vegas.

Recently the city has been in discussions with well-respected companies familiar with the kind of renovation envisioned for Main Street Station, says John Woodward, director of economic development for the city. Woodward declines to name the developers but says he hopes the historic station will attract them.

The $49 million first phase of the project will be completed by January. Most of the money comes from federal transportation funds, Woodward says. Then the city hopes to woo restaurants and retailers to the station in later phases.

Still, the city stands to lose if trains don't stop there. Renovation of the 101-year-old station calls for it to become a downtown transportation hub.

"It's my opinion that passenger rail will come to that station," says Woodward, who notes that Richmond is the southern end of Amtrak's northeast line — the only line that has been profitable for Amtrak. The Washington, D.C., to New York City leg is Amtrak's most traveled.

But even if he's wrong, Woodward seems sure about Main Street Station. Maybe it's because his department's offices are moving into the station's third floor. "All of a sudden if there isn't the transportation use, by virtue of its size, prominence and uniqueness it'll still serve as a catalyst for all kinds of ancillary uses," says Woodward. "I think it's going to be an engine for the economic development of the whole area." — B.W.

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