A Former Industrial Warehouse Becomes an Urban Transportation Center, Designed to Be Raleigh, N.C.’s ‘Front Door’

The new Raleigh Union Station, which provides 9,200 square feet of passenger areas, is more than five times the space of the former station. The project features two rail bridges, a passenger concourse and tunnel, and a 950-foot- long center-loading train platform. Some of the facility’s highlights include:

  • A spacious main hall that is considered the “living room” of the station and serves as the central point for passengers and those employed in the leased spaces on the upper two floors of the station.
The new Raleigh Union Station, which provides 9,200 square feet of passenger areas, is more than five times the space of Raleigh’s former station.
  • A civic plaza that comprises four different seating areas and a bandstand, suitable for public events. The plaza has a concrete slab foundation strong enough to support food trucks to enter and serve customers.
  • Three tenant areas: a 3,847-square-foot space for a potential “grab and go” convenience store on the first floor; 6,262 square feet of office space; and a 2,702-square-foot room designed for a restaurant on the upper mezzanine, which boasts an outdoor terrace and spectacular views of downtown Raleigh.
  • An Amtrak waiting area, which serves as the transition from the civic plaza to the concourse. It has seating areas for passengers, as well as workstations with electrical outlets and fiber-optic connections to enable them to work while at the station. It also includes a ticketing counter and customer service desk.
  • A ramp leading to the platform enables baggage carts to deliver luggage directly to the trains, as well as assists passengers with limited mobility to be transported to the loading platform.
  • A canopy walkway, which covers the entire face of the building, provides access to an observation area.

The ticketing area and Amtrak offices are housed in the new construction expansion area, which was attached to the existing building.

Raleigh Union Station also boasts some impressive green elements, including a terraced roof, featuring plantings and concrete pavers, that overlooks a pollinator garden. The plantings in the pollinator mound were chosen to foster and facilitate the urban bee population. Burt’s Bees, a personal care company headquartered in Durham, donated a portion of the funds used to create this area. Other sustainable features include onsite bioretention, permeable pavement systems, a green roof over the concourse and stormwater management features.

Thinking about the Future

Designed to serve as a regional transportation hub, the station serves Amtrak’s long-distance Silver Star passenger train, providing service to the Northeast and Florida, as well as offering four daily round trips to Charlotte provided by Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. It also already incorporates some infrastructure for future commuter rail and adjacent bus service for local residents.

Although several bus routes already run adjacent to the Raleigh Union Station civic plaza, within five to seven years an adjacent construction project could add six to 10 bus bays, complementing the city’s existing 22-bay station and increasing Raleigh Union Station’s connectivity to the city. Additional mixed-use space with retail is also planned for the area.

Two gantry cranes used in the Dillon Supply warehouse to lift pieces of steel off the factory floor and move them throughout the facility were retained in the new building. One holds a large clock at the station’s west end.

In addition, Raleigh Union Station is serving as a catalyst for continued revitalization of the city’s Warehouse District. A nearby mixed-used development, featuring an 18-story office tower with retail space and two 6-story apartment buildings with an adjoining parking deck, as well as the 20,000-square-foot Morgan Street Food Hall, are other innovative, adaptive-reuse projects helping to re-shape the area.

City officials envision the new Raleigh Union Station as “a front door to the city.” With their long-term master plan in mind, they recognized the need to revitalize the downtown area and make multimodal transport opportunities convenient and attractive. To serve both of these goals, they supported a vision to convert an abandoned warehouse to a transportation hub using innovative design and construction practices. This vision has created a modern facility that retains the structure and look of its original purpose while providing the modern infrastructure to support contemporary demands and take advantage of future opportunities.

Retrofit Team

ARCHITECT: Clearscapes, Raleigh, N.C.

GENERAL CONTRACTORS: Skanska USA, Durham, N.C.; Clancy & Theys Construction Co., Raleigh; and Holt Brothers Construction, Raleigh

ENGINEER: STV Engineers, Charlotte, N.C.



WINDOWS and CURTAINWALL: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope


ROOFING: Johns Mansville

GREEN ROOF: American Hydrotech Inc.

ROOF PAVERS: Hanover Architectural Products

HVAC: Trane

Photos: Art Howard Photography

About the Author

Joe Thompson
Joe Thompson is vice president and account manager with Skanska USA’s Durham, N.C., office.

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