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The Martinez City Council has given the go-ahead to start the process of making the old train depot into a museum.

The city will begin negotiating with the Martinez Historical Society to enter a lease agreement for the property, at 601 Marina Vista Avenue. The city obtained control of the building in 2001 — when the new Amtrak station opened nearby — and has since used it for storage, also allowing Alhambra High School and other local nonprofit groups to use it for the same purpose.

Former Southern Pacific steam locomotive No. 1258 sits at the entrance to Martinez Waterfront Park, across from the former train depot now being eyed for preservation. (Photo by Samantha Laurey/Bay City News Foundation)

The original depot was built in 1877. Various uses have been discussed over the past two decades, including a restaurant and a ticket office for train tours. The building needs massive renovations.

The historical society is asking for a lease agreement in order to start a fundraising campaign. It would use the 5,400-square-foot building as a nonprofit, regional museum and exhibition center. The lease agreement could also include a provision to house the Joe DiMaggio “Joltin’ Joe” boat display, an idea the historical society has supported in the past.

A city staff report said the historical society has approached the city about a lease that would span at least 30 years, which it said would be necessary to properly fund the project. “Nominal” rent and a long-term agreement would make the project more attractive for facility rehabilitation and improvement grant opportunities, the report said.

The report did not mention any financial terms. The agreement will expire Dec. 31.