Ownership of the L&N Depot is changing hands as local officials eye a possible new tax increment financing district project on land adjacent to the depot.
At Tuesday’s Bowling Green City Commission meeting, the city approved turning over the city’s interest in the depot property at 401 Kentucky St. to the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority, which oversees the TIF district. Warren Fiscal Court was also slated Friday to approve on a second reading the transfer of its interests in the depot.
The depot, which was built in 1925, is the base for the Historic RailPark and Train Museum and is owned jointly by the city and county. In recent years, those governments have been working to transfer ownership of the depot to the nonprofit Friends of the L&N Depot, which manages the museum operations there.
But because of the cost to maintain and operate the facility, simply cutting the cord with the facility is “not going to be feasible,” Bowling Green City Manager Jeff Meisel said.
He said there has been an interest in the vacant lot next to the depot for development of a TIF project.
The Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority oversees the tax increment financing district around downtown Bowling Green that has produced such projects as Bowling Green Ballpark and the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center.
The site “has a lot of potential,” Meisel said.
Authority Chairman Doug Gorman said the depot and surrounding property are already in the TIF district, and “we have been working on an economic development project” there. He said the proposed project is in “the early stages.”
The Authority at its monthly meeting Thursday voted to accept the transfer of ownership.
He said he foresees the Friends group continuing to operate the museum as it always has with the possible new project being a boon to the facility.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure it’s successful,” he said.
That is welcome news to Jamie Johnson, the museum’s executive director.
“At the end of the day, what we care about is being able to utilize the L&N Depot as a tourist attraction ... and to preserve the building,” she said.
“We want to be under the umbrella (of an owner) that cares about what we are doing,” she said, adding that the Authority is “a good fit.”
After operating in the red for many previous years, 2019 was the “best year we’ve ever had,” Johnson said Thursday at a lunch at the depot recapping the 2019 fundraising campaign and looking ahead to 2020.
She said the museum ended 2019 with a $50,000 profit.
“But one year is not enough to build a foundation,” she said.
The museum is working to grow an endowment fund and raise more money to become self-sufficient, she said.
– Follow News Director Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.