destined for the wrecking ball -- until residents rallied to save it.
Locals banded together to take ownership, striking a deal with Mechanics
Bank to move in and ensure the building does not languish again.
Monday morning, amid the smell of fresh wood and paint, more than 100
city leaders, bank representatives and residents flung open the doors to
the refurbished building and celebrated its $1.5 million restoration.
The ATM beckoned. Bank tellers processed transactions.
Residents hope the addition will spruce up the intersection of
South Garrard Boulevard
and West Richmond Avenue,
a primary entrance into the neighborhood. The restored railway building
and plaza already have replaced the old gravel, weed-infested lot that
once sat there, and residents expect the fresh foot traffic to bring a
vitality to a corner that has been absent too long.
"Three-quarters of the people who come into Point Richmond come by this
intersection," resident Jeff Lee said. "This corner in particular was
extremely ugly, and this is a chance to revitalize it."
2,079-square-foot railway building is one of the few remnants from the
days when railroads were key to commerce. In 1903, two years before
incorporated, Santa Fe Railroad constructed the building as an employee
reading room staffed by a librarian and stocked with newspapers and
1940s, the room became the offices for the railyard master. By 1992,
operations moved elsewhere and the room was abandoned.
railroad company considered tearing it down, but a city consultant
concluded the structure was historically significant. The consultant's
findings helped spare the building, and the city took control in 1999,
said Councilman Tom Butt, who was among those who led the charge to save
2004, the city passed the ownership torch to the nonprofit Point
Richmond Gateway Foundation.
moved the 80-ton railway building from the foot of
South Macdonald Avenue to the new site in 2005,
and restoration efforts came in the form of time, materials and money
from private individuals and companies.
interior had succumbed to rot after years of marinating in the rainwater
from the leaky roof.
in pretty bad shape," project manager Brian Hodges said. "We pretty much
had to gut the inside."
replaced the floor and put on a new roof. They repainted the exterior,
using shades of yellow, green and red that would have been used in the
the original building remains. The ceiling, including parts of the
original brick chimneys for the potbelly stoves, is intact. Nearly all
the double-hung, redwood-framed windows remain. The exterior siding is
Mechanics Bank signed a 10-year lease with the Point Richmond Gateway
Foundation, which owns the building. Initial rent payments will be used
to cover restoration costs. The foundation plans to funnel subsequent
payments, up to $15,000 a year, into community projects.
foundation awarded $9,000 in grants to eight local groups at Monday's
Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or
Friday, October 26, 2007
history: Mechanics Bank restores
Building to open a branch
Business Times - by
Stephanie Secrest |
Bay Business Times
More than a
century after it was first used as a reading room to improve the minds
(and morals) of Atchison,
Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad
employees, the historic Trainmasters Building will reopen Oct. 29 as the
new Point Richmond office of
The Mechanics Bank.
Mechanics Bank signed a lease on the building in March, 18 months after
it had been moved to its current location, at
West Richmond Avenue near the entrance to Point
Richmond. That move was the culmination of a 15-year fight to save the
building, which had been empty for more than two decades and was badly
old building's rich heritage dates back to the founding of the city of
Richmond. "This is the only building left from the
original Santa Fe Rail yards," said Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt,
an architect and preservationist who is widely credited with leading the
long fight to save the building from the wrecking ball.
Richmond grew up to serve the railroad and the
time when the local entertainment consisted of "bars and bordellos,"
Butt said, the building stood out as a community center for railroad
workers, and was one of many that the railroad built across the West.
Mechanics Bank spent $1.4 million and seven months working with local
architects to renovate the building with period details, from hand-built
wood walls to old-fashioned globe light fixtures over desks that are
shaped to conceal modern technological additions. No walls were cut open
for ATMs to preserve the historical nature of the building. Instead, a
kiosk was added at the front of the building.
experience that we're looking for is 'wow, I've just walked back in
time,'" said Rauly Butler, senior vice president and retail banking
manager of The Mechanics Bank.
scouting for a new location for the Point Richmond office when he
spotted the building, which he dubbed "the yellow beacon." The bank's
previous Point Richmond location, located across the street, was hard to
see and had been the target of a number of robberies; the state was also
looking to lease the space since the California Department of Justice
operates a 68,000-square foot DNA crime lab nearby. High-tech security
features such as digital cameras are small and inconspicuous,
noted. "We can't compromise on technology." At 2,000 square feet, the
branch is about a third smaller than the previous office, so it is not
only intimate, but laid out to the last detail,
challenge for the bank was getting board approval to move to a location
just across the street, and second, spending more than $1 million to do
it. In his initial presentation to the board,
expected the bank to ultimately save money compared to the operating
costs of the former, larger location. But the $1.4 million final cost
was over the projected budget of $1 million and
now expects the project to break even. The compelling piece of the
bank's argument to take on the project was its clear and demonstrated
commitment to the community,
said. The project included landscaping a public park with almost 1,000
renovation and the park have transformed the entrance to quaint Point
entrance to town was quite ugly," said Martin McNair, a Mechanics Bank
board member and president of the Point Richmond Gateway Foundation,
which was formed to save the building. The bank will pay rent to the
foundation, which will use the funds to maintain the small
in front of the building and to make community grants.
coming months the bank will hold community events at the new location,
including holiday events and a "Taste of Point Richmond" planned for the
The Mechanics Bank
Banking and financial services
Steven K. Buster
2006 net interest and noninterest income:
2006 net income:
3170 Hilltop Mall Road,