Save Our Station wish list
Cheney's Save Our Station (SOS) organization has narrowed a list of "potential' sites for relocation of the former Northern Pacific train depot from 10 down to five.
Group member Sue Beeman cautioned, however, that calling these potential sites is a rather "nebulous" reference. The sites could be potential once the group settles on a plan on how to use the station built in 1929 and currently owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, if the railroad is willing to sell the station, if the owner or owners of any of the sites are willing to sell the property and - perhaps the largest - if they are able to secure financing for the project.
"There are lots of variables and we're not really at that point yet," Beeman said.
SOS created the list after reviewing a map from the Spokane County Assessor's Office of vacant Cheney properties. Beeman, who is the Cheney Community Development Department's administrative assistant but volunteers with the group out of personal interest, said they looked for available sites located on First Street and close to railroad tracks.
For SOS member Bonnie Eccles, the preferred site is still the downtown location on the east side of First Street at College Avenue, originally proposed by property owner Dr. Peter Hansen. Hansen made the offer to donate the land to the city in April after BNSF began the process to tear down the depot by initiating permitting and environmental review procedures with the city.
Hansen's offer was predicated on the city coming up with the estimated $415,200 to move the depot, remove the buildings on his property and prepare a new foundation and infrastructure for the station. The City Council, while sympathetic to preserving the depot, passed on Hansen's offer because of the costs.
Eccles said this site maintains the historical significance of the depot, one of which it was the point of arrival for students coming to Cheney to attend Eastern Washington College of Education or Eastern Washington State College, now Eastern Washington University. Students would disembark at the station and walk up College to the university.
"It was the basis for the 'Walk Through the Pillars,'" Eccles said of the university's annual first week of school freshmen ritual.
Other sites include the location of the former Chevron service station two blocks south on First Street. While downtown, owners of the site are under an order from the state Department of Ecology to clean up petroleum hydrocarbons that leaked into the soil and nearby groundwater.
Other sites have their own issues - issues the organization would need to deal with if they can overcome initial challenges. The biggest of these is funding, but in order to apply for any money, SOS must first produce a plan detailing how the depot would be used.
Ideas being kicked around range from a combination museum/commercial business to a bistro, visitor center and even dual-purpose building coupling Spokane Transit Authority operations with Greyhound bus lines. Beeman said they might also consider a partnership with a department at EWU for a student-run facility.
"I think we're trying to be creative about uses for the building," she said. "So far, everything we're talking about is really conceptual."
The group is also finalizing a letter to BNSF that will serve as a formal proposal to the railroad regarding intentions to save the depot. Beeman added their work so far has gained the attention of Washington State's Archeology and Historic Preservation Department, which is interested in Cheney's efforts as well as the efforts of four other communities in the state trying to save local train stations deemed surplus property.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.