Cheney Free Press -


Depot relocation inches closer to reality

Cheney organization nears agreement on language for transfer of portion of property


October 26, 2017

John McCallum

The first permanent structure on the future home of Cheney's Northern Pacific Railroad depot is this sign, erected by Boy Scout Eagle candidate Ben Rose.

Piece by piece - even if small pieces - the relocation of Cheney's former Northern Pacific Railroad depot is slowly coming together.

The latest piece involves creation and installation of a sign for the depot at its future home on First Street. The sign was an Eagle Scout project for candidate Ben Rose, who coordinated the work.

Cheney Depot Society board member Sue Beeman said Rose, who is the grandson of Historic Preservation Commission member Martin Seedorf, did all of legwork to get the sign up, beginning with research on the proper lettering style, size and materials. Rose also had to recruit volunteers to help with the installation, find someone willing to drill the posts for free and navigate the paperwork at the city's building department in order to obtain a permit to erect the sign.

"I've been told that when you plant a sign like that, it's like a big sail," Beeman said. "He (Rose) did a masterful job of tiptoeing the bounds of bureaucracy."

The sign is designed to be permanent, despite current wording containing the phrase "Future home of." Beeman said that portion can be removed once the depot is moved from its current location along Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks near Alki Street.

The society was the low bidder in an effort to purchase the land the sign now sits on at the corner of First and I streets, which is also occupied by a vacant house. Beeman said they are hoping to find someone that might want the structure and be willing to remove it.

If not, the fire department has indicated it would be interesting in using the five-bedroom structure built in 1908 in a practice burn. Beeman said the department would cover the sign with thermal blankets to protect it.

The society is in the process of finalizing a title transfer of land next to the house that is being donated for the depot. Beeman said putting the wraps on that effort mainly comes down to language of the gifting agreement for the property that is owned by Sunshine Investments.

"We could possibly get the transfer done by this Friday (Oct. 27)," Beeman said. The agreement would give the society over 40,000 square feet on which to relocate the depot originally built in 1929.

Beeman said a State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) review of the land had been completed successfully, with only "boilerplate" comments presented by the agencies reviewing the application. The property at First and Union streets was originally used by the Union Oil Company from 1929 –1997 as a bulk fuel oil storage facility.

Beeman said the agencies were satisfied no major contamination was present at the site, expressing the belief any underground contamination probably would be the result of fuel tanks located at other nearby sites of former gas stations. The society's plans for the site including raising the location of the depot to street level by depositing 2,500 – 3,000 cubic yards of fill, a process that would begin with a layer of clay with dirt on top.

One outcome of the SEPA process is that the state's Office of Archeology & Historic Preservation has taken an interest in the depot's relocation, something Beeman said might help in their upcoming grant application efforts. The depot's Spanish-style design is more typical to depots in the American Southwest than Pacific Northwest.

The society has been fundraising to move the depot since 2014 - which once the title transfer goes through could take place in spring or summer of 2018.

Funds to rehabilitate the building for future use would likely need to come from grants, although Beeman said the moving funds would also apply as matching funds in that process.

John McCallum can be reached at


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