One year in, mammoth $219M overhaul starting to bring new life to historic Union Terminal

Project should be finished in late 2018
Posted at 7:00 AM, Jul 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-28 07:00:53-04

CINCINNATI -- This month marks one year since crews kicked off the massive restoration project at Union Terminal that is expected to wrap up by November 2018. Teams began conducting probes and feasibility studies in preparation for the restoration as far back as 2014.

Portions of the Museum Center have remained open since the project started, but the historic rotunda is being used as a staging area while crews conduct deep interior cleaning and peel back the building's exterior layer by layer to treat and waterproof the underlying steel.

"Amazingly, no major problems were revealed in those probes, which is impressive for a 500-square-foot historic property," said Cody Hefner, spokesman for Cincinnati Museum Center, which is housed in the historic structure.

The Losantiville Lunch Counter just off the rotunda was once Union Terminal's main food service area. Once renovations are completed, it will be used for that purpose again. But in the meantime, plumbing and wiring from the 1930s need to updated and replaced.

Project managers consulted with the country's foremost engineers while planning the renovation -- experts who have worked on such high-profile projects as the Statue of Liberty, Fallingwater and the Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C.

Many artifacts and permanent exhibits have been moved to the Downtown public library and other temporary storage facilities around town, but some items, like the popular Cincinnati In Motion display, remain in place under protective covering throughout renovation.

Some popular exhibits, such as The Cave and Treasures of Travel, which features 130 years of global artifacts, will return upon the museum's reopening. Meanwhile, a planned request for proposals will help organizers determine which new exhibits will be introduced.

The organization relied on $37 million in federal and state historic tax credits to help fund the $219 million renovation.

The accompanying photos create a visual tour of the renovations, including historical elements of the building crews have unearthed during the process. This is the first full-scale structural restoration project ever to take place at the iconic site.

Once renovation work is complete, the popular Duke Energy Holiday Trains will be moved to the lower-level mezzanine (near the Flatboat Gallery), giving visitors a bird's-eye view. The 72-year-old trains are stored at Union Terminal year-round but are only viewable by the public during the holidays because of their age and fragility.

Buses and trolley coaches once stopped at this point (the current location of the Science Museum), letting riders off at the pedestrian ramp leading up to the rotunda before passing through the building and exiting on the other side.

An exposed wall that organizers refer to as the "Harry Potter wall" due to its rustic appearance shows the good condition of supportive steel beams throughout the Museum Center.