The depot’s place in a comprehensive development plan


During DeKalb’s last Planning & Zoning Committee (P&Z) meeting, a member of the public asked whether Union Pacific Railroad intended to sell its old train depot. The reply:

City Manager Nicklas responded he has had several conversations regarding the rumor of Union Pacific selling the depot, however as far as he knows they are not selling. He stressed the City will never issue a demolition permit for the depot as this is a historic part of DeKalb.

Planning & Zoning Commission draft minutes, meeting of May 16, 2022

The depot’s importance suggests the city manager should talk to UP directly and obtain a definitive answer. Plus there’s no better time, because P&Z has recently begun preliminary work on updating DeKalb’s comprehensive plan for future development/redevelopment.

In 2005 — the last time a comprehensive plan was approved — the city also adopted a concept plan called the East Lincoln Highway Corridor Plan, which targeted the depot for redevelopment.

The historic Union Pacific Depot is one of the most important architectural landmarks in the City and could play a key role in the revitalization of downtown’s east end. The City should take a proactive role in either acquiring this property before it is allowed to deteriorate further, or facilitate its acquisition by private investors.

Union Pacific officials have said they would cooperate in relocating their depot operations provided that they not incur any costs. The City should work immediately to find an alternative site for UP’s storage facility – perhaps on the vacant city-owned land on the north side of the tracts [sic], east of 7th Street. City officials should attempt to leverage Union Pacific’s proposed closure of 6th Street in its negotiations for the depot property.

East Lincoln Highway Corridor Plan, p. 37

I don’t recall a proposal to close 6th Street, and probably very few people remember the East Lincoln plan at all, overshadowed as it must have been by the overarching comprehensive plan adopted the same year. The good news is the update process creates opportunities for public input and renewed interest in DeKalb’s more neglected sections of town; and a landmark that the city “will never issue a demolition permit for” seems ripe for inclusion.