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Kern County residents hope to save Sumner Station from demolishment

"We need to invest in it.”
Railroad (FILE)
Posted at 10:10 PM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 01:10:57-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It’s been around in Bakersfield since 1889. The Southern Pacific Train Depot, also known as the Sumner Station, which served as a railroad station and lodging.

The station is boarded up after Union Pacific vacated the location and faces demolishment if the City of Bakersfield fails to renew its lease to manage the property later this year, but a few Kern County residents are hoping to save it.

An active group here in Bakersfield called ‘Save the Sumner Station Working Group’ is working to keep the Sumner Station standing, but time is ticking.

“The agreement is only for a year and if the city decides not to renew the lease, then it goes back to the railroad and their option is to tear it down and they have no interest in keeping this building,” said Stephen Montgomery with the preservation group.

The area of east Bakersfield, which the Sumner Station calls home, is both a historic but economically disadvantaged neighborhood.

“The city needs to have a revitalized neighborhood to kind of get away from this atmosphere of derelicts wandering around and the filth and the vandalism that old town Kern has now.”

Montgomery said if the Sumner Station is torn down, a vacant lot can negatively affect the area.

Councilman Andrae Gonzales feels the same. “The last thing we need is for us to destroy one of the few aspects this neighborhood has. We need to preserve it and in fact, we need to invest in it.”

The preservation group and Gonzales are asking for the communities help to renew the structure into something useful for everyone.

“What I’d like to see is an active use that would really [be] welcoming for lots and lots of people. So, a restaurant venue, a public market venue, that type of use, I think would be most appropriate.”

Similar projects like this have been developed across that state, and Gonzales said the process takes time.

“The public needs to know that it is going to take a private investor to come in and to invest in this property and to do something meaningful and substantial that will make it work for this property. It’s called adaptive reuse; we need to find an adaptive reuse project for this property.”

In the meantime, Montgomery said a few things need to fall into place to keep this historic building around.

“The next step is to get the city to extend the lease and understand that it’s worth it to spend the time to run that lease for at least five years and actively pursue tenants to occupy a building and actively pursue grants, federal grants, to help finance the restoration and to make this thing a productive central part of this community.”

Gonzalez said ultimately it is the city’s decision to extend the lease after July. If the city decides not to, the building could face demolishment, which will be discussed before the council this summer, but Gonzalez said the public’s support and contributions are also encouraged to move the conversations forward.