Historic Tampa Union Station in need of repair

Railroad station Amtrak

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Tampa Union Station is Tampa Bay’s only active train station. The Tampa Union Station opened on May 15, 1912 on the east edge of downtown Tampa. Today the Café con Tampa series hosted Jackson McQuigg with Friends of Union Station, the non-profit working to preserve the station. McQuigg spoke about the current state of the station and what the future might hold.  

“It’s called Union Station because all three railroads in Tampa served it,” McQuigg said. “Typically you’d see in stations where more than one railroad existed in the town, we had three.”

Postcard from 1912. Credit: State Archives of Florida

Historic landmark is over 110 years old

Tampa Union is the third largest transportation facility in Tampa and the third busiest Amtrak station in the state, with 150,000 passengers a year. Two Amtrak trains come through the station daily between north and south Florida. McQuigg says it is one of the few remaining buildings in the area still serving its original purpose. 

“How many other buildings in Tampa, that are 110 years old, still serve their original purpose?” McQuigg said. “Well, Tampa Union Station does.”

Photo from 1922. Credit: State Archives of Florida/Burgert Brothers

In 1974, it was added to the national register of historic places. In 1984, Amtrak stopped train service and the city of Tampa condemned the building. A non-profit called Tampa Union Station Preservation and Redevelopment acquired the station’s mortgage from CSX in 1991. Hillsborough County Commission helped the group with the $50,000 down payment. Then $4.1 million in renovations began.

Repairs needed since last renovation

“The roof had leaked for 30 years, there were dead pigeons floating in the basement,” McQuigg said. “Plaster was falling all over the interior of the building.”

It has been 24 years since the last renovations completed. Rotten windows and issues with air-conditioning are in need of repair. McQuigg says Tampa Union Station needs help again. So far, the group has raised almost $300,000 for repairs.

“But the reality of it is, Tampa Union Station is 110 years old,” McQuigg said. “So additional uses for the station are definitely hoped for.”

The City of Tampa owns the building. McQuigg says the train station needs new uses to bring in revenue for the historic space. One possibility is the private rail company Brightline, which is looking to create an extension to Tampa from Central Florida. 

“Brightline is the $64,000 question as to where they’ll land in Tampa,” McQuigg said.

Brightline is currently expanding into Orlando from South Florida, with operations expected to begin next year. McQuiggs says he thinks Tampa Union Station would make a lot of sense for Brightline. For more information, visit tampaunionstation.com.