Recognizing it had outgrown its original broadcast facility, Omaha ABC affiliate, KETV, began searching for a location offering more space and greater technological adaptability. After several years, KETV discovered the abandoned, classical revival Burlington Passenger Station. It met critical space, parking, and location criteria, and yet the 115-year-old Station was a significant departure from what they originally envisioned. After performing more than a year of due diligence and test-fit plans on their own, KETV selected Leo A Daly to provide architecture, interiors, and structural and civil engineering services.
During its 40 years of vacancy, the Station was neglected and victimized by vandalism and abandoned demolition work. As a result, most of the interior historic finishes – ornamental plaster, wood paneling and flooring, marble wainscot, doors, and windows – no longer existed, revealing the skeleton of the building’s original 1898, Greek Revival design.
In keeping with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Rehabilitation a complete existing conditions survey was performed for historically-significant features. These included the brick, clay, and limestone masonry (structure and architectural conditions), interior and exterior windows and doors, steel and iron elements, and roof and floor decks. The scope of restoration work included cleaning and repointing all exterior masonry, cleaning, and selective repointing of interior masonry (including marble and slate), replacement of roof and floor deck, and restoration or reconstruction of historic wood doors and windows.
Existing code compliance issues also were addressed, including the integration of vertical circulation elements and fire detection and suppression systems. Today, new technology, electrical, heating, and cooling systems are integrated in a manner that minimizes architectural and structural impact.
The design solution focused the limited budget on the most important structural and historic features. The design allows the building to tell its remarkable story. New materials stick to the basics, in neutral colors, allowing history and breaking news to share center stage.
To create a track-level news studio, six cast-iron columns had to be removed from the old baggage handling room. This required the installation of eight new steel columns supported by concrete micropiles which extended more than 80 feet to bedrock. The new columns support steel beams to collect the loads from the floor above. The loads include a 60-foot high, two-foot thick masonry wall which weighs hundreds of thousands of pounds. This masonry wall supports the only remaining ornamental plaster wall and ceiling finishes on the main level, in the east lobby. To ensure the wall and its finishes would remain undamaged,
the new steel beams were predeflected, prior to receiving their load.
With the television news studio located less than 50 feet from an active rail line, acoustics were a challenge. Following acoustical testing, Leo A Daly worked closely with Construction Manager and Owner Representative, Broadcast Building Company (BBC), to design a box-within-a-box solution that provided vibration isolation from the existing structure at a reasonable cost. The resulting studio space is dead quiet even with a train right outside the historic walls.