Anyone who lives in Kansas City knows that Union Station has struggled mightily to stay afloat since it reopened its doors a decade ago. I was one of the diehards who did not want to see Union Station demolished after years of decay and neglect. I’ll admit to having an emotional attachment to the place, having spent much time there as a child riding the trains regularly to visit my grandparents and also to “faraway” places like California. We rode the train so often, Union Station felt like a second home. The hustle bustle of travelers and vendors, the clack-clack of hard-soled shoes reverberating off the walls and floors of the cavernous North Waiting Room, the candy carts and shops are permanently etched in my childhood memories.
So, I’ve been reading with a great deal of interest about the Greater Kansas City Chamber’s efforts to relocate to Union Station from its current home in the Commerce Bank Tower on Main. I was happy to read last week that the Chamber Board gave its approval to begin lease negotiations with Union Station.
Union Station is a perfect home for the Chamber. First, we need more people in and out of Union Station on a daily basis. It needs to become more of a business center in addition to an attraction. The Chamber’s presence there will accomplish that, drawing business people from around the city who would visit the Chamber offices for meetings and events.
Second, Union Station is filled with historical significance. If the Chamber makes Union Station its home, it will be a symbolic bridging of Kansas City’s history to its future.
Third, in its heyday, Union Station was a portal to Kansas City. Tens of thousands of passengers passed through Union Station every year. During World War II, a million or so travelers caught what may have been their first glimpse of Kansas City within the walls of Union Station, including half of all military personnel. So, it makes sense that the Chamber, which is often the first place of contact for business visitors to Kansas City, take up residence at Union Station and help to make it a Portal of Kansas City once again.