Seattle's historic King Street Station will get a new green-tile roof and repairs to its clock tower in a new round of restoration projects...

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Seattle’s historic King Street Station will get a new green-tile roof and repairs to its clock tower in a new round of restoration projects to start this summer.

Mayor Greg Nickels announced Wednesday that the city signed a deal to buy the station from BNSF Railway for a nominal $10 fee. That allows $16.5 million in federal and state grants to be spent for further renovations, along with $10 million from the city’s voter-approved Bridging the Gap property tax.

Within three years, a dingy false ceiling will be removed from the waiting area, to reveal the frescoed original ceiling. Brick walls will be removed at the northwest corner, so a granite-and-marble staircase can be reopened to the outdoors. Seismic strengthening is planned.

The 242-foot-high tower was patterned after the campanile of St. Mark’s Church in Venice, Italy. When the station opened in 1906, it was the tallest building in Seattle.

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Nickels ascended several flights of stairs Wednesday morning to reach an outdoor balcony at the spire, where he promised to remove ugly communications equipment.

The mayor later switched on the red neon “KING STREET STATION” sign that faces downtown.

City officials can’t predict how quickly the clock can be rebuilt to display proper time because its gear-based mechanisms are so old and specialized, said project manager Trevina Wang.

Austin Chester, of Seattle, seeing his mother off to Portland, said the changes will be dramatic — but said the city ought to paint the waiting room in colors instead of the planned white, tear out the black fake-leather chairs, and install Wi-Fi, “so that it’s more millennium friendly.”

The station’s condition has declined since the 1960s, when highways and jets reduced train ridership, and maintenance eventually lagged.

In a renaissance of sorts, King Street Station now handles 16 daily Amtrak arrivals and departures, and intercity buses; an additional 16 Sound Transit weekday commuter trains use a nearby platform. This spring, workers are adding track for expected increases in freight and passenger service.

Amtrak and the state Department of Transportation have restored the lobby entrance, a compass rose in the floor tile, the restrooms, and some marble interior columns. But work stopped two years ago, while the property deal was negotiated.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or

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