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Restoration of Northfield Depot gets underway

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Seven years after threats to demolish the Northfield Depot, the city is hosting a groundbreaking Friday for the historic building's restoration.

The event was organized by Save the Northfield Depot, a community group whose mission is to preserve the original depot built in 1888. 

The depot was set to be demolished by Canadian Pacific Railroad in 2008, but Northfield residents hosted public meetings to decide the depot's fate. Save the Northfield Depot wrote a proposal to the city, which the city accepted under the condition they raise $228,000. The goal was met through private donations from residents, and the city sold the group a new lot for the depot for $1. 

Save the Northfield Depot is moving the original foundation of the depot to the new location, just across the street. The group needs another $65,000 to complete the interior, according to Alice Thomas, a board member of the group. Thomas said the depot serves as "the last symbol of the strength of railroads in America."  

After getting feedback at public meetings, Save the Northfield Depot plans to convert the depot into a combination of a visitor's center, retail space and a transportation hub. Suzie Nakasian, a Northfield City Council member, said there has been a lot of excitement from residents about the project, including "seniors and Gen Y's." 

Nakasian is one of the leaders of the Central Minnesota Passenger Rail Initiative, which is working to restore inter-city passenger rail service on an existing rail line between south-central Minnesota and the Twin Cities through Northfield. 

If the rail line is restored, Nakasian says the depot would serve as a transit hub for buses and trains, bringing economic development to Northfield, which is home to Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges.