CHENEY – Financial efforts to relocate and restore Cheney’s historic Northern Pacific Railroad depot received a significant shot in the arm on Monday, Jan. 6, with the awarding of a $50,000 grant from the Avista Foundation.
The award is part of an additional $7 million the Foundation announced early in 2019 it was infusing into local communities as part of a philanthropic effort over the next several years launched to celebrate the company’s 130 years of existence. According to information on its website, the Foundation is working with communities on projects in three areas: homelessness, small-town pride and youth success.
“This is a perfect example of small-town pride,” Melanie Rose, Avista regional business manager for Spokane Valley and the West Plains, told Cheney Depot Society board members at a check presentation at the city’s Utility Building.
Rose said the funding would be presented in two, $25,000 installments. The first on Jan. 6 would go towards improvements to the depot’s exterior once it is relocated from its current site at Front and College streets to newly acquired land along 1st Street between Union and I streets.
The second $25,000 installment would be made at a later date and used for improvements to the depot’s interior. Built in 1929 with a unique Southwest-style architecture, the depot served Cheney for well over 40 years, acting as a portal for many students coming to the city to attend Eastern Washington College of Education and eventually Eastern Washington State College — now Eastern Washington University.
Depot Society vice president Tom Trulove thanked Rose and Avista for their contributions to relocate the structure.
“It really does make a difference as part of the pride in our community,” he added.
Efforts to relocate the depot have snowballed in recent years since it was originally scheduled for demolition in 2014 and turned down by the council as worthy of a city effort to save it due to tight finances. Early on, Cheney native and current Alaska resident Dr. Peter Hansen pledged to match funding raised up to $500,000, and the society scored big successes in using some funding to purchase part of the land for the depot’s future home while getting local property owners to donate the other portion.
The society was awarded a $366,000 grant from the Washington State Historical Society’s Heritage Capital Projects Advisory Panel in August 2018, and that funding was included in the current 2019-2021 state budget. Walker Construction has been retained to act as the general contractor overseeing the move, which could take place in mid-March depending on weather conditions through the rest of winter.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.