For decades, the Beaux Arts train station has sat idle on the Pawtucket-Central Falls line, a reminder of a bygone era of more elegant transportation.
More recently, the train station has become a subject of intense interest, both from preservationists who see it as an important part of bringing fresh vitality to the surrounding communities, and to the developer that plans to establish a CVS store in close proximity.
The two sides have been at loggerheads in recent weeks, with the conflict playing out in the Pawtucket City Council, although the possible demolition of the station (after a small amount already occurred) has been delayed for now, thanks in part to assistance from the Woonsocket-based drugstore giant. A 30-day agreement struck last week is meant to foster talks while putting further action on hold until January 15.
The pause has proponents of preserving the train station, including the Pawtucket Alliance for Downtown Success (www.pads02860.org), hoping that “we can find a solution that’s sort of a win-win for everyone involved, [and] that involves retaining the building,” says Matt Kierstead, a member of the group.
Although the train station, which was built around 1915, needs some cosmetic improvements, it is structurally sound, “an important institutional landmark,” and might help to trigger federal transportation assistance, Kierstead says. The strategic location on the Pawtucket-Central Falls line, meanwhile, is something of a blessing and a curse, he notes, because of varying opinions about the station’s future. Kierstead and other proponents hope that the two sides can ultimately get on the same page.
For boosters of Pawtucket, which has attracted an influx of new residents in and around its downtown, revitalizing the train station is seen as an important step for enhancing the community and making residents less car-dependent. As it stands, Amtrak, MBTA, and Providence & Worcester (non-passenger) service pass through Pawtucket and Central Falls, but do not stop in the two communities.
Tennessee-based developer Oscar Seelbinder, who did not return a call seeking comment, plans to develop a CVS store in proximity to the train station site.
After preservation proponents sent an open letter to Thomas Ryan, CVS’ president and CEO, company representatives went to speak with Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle in an effort to halt further demolition and to encourage the two sides to work together, says Mike DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman.