May 18, 2021
Port of Whitman County
Port Receives Grant to Explore Adaptive Reuse of WSU Steam Plant

The Port has been awarded $200,000 to study reuse opportunities for the College Avenue Steam Plant

Pullman (May 18, 2021) — The Port of Whitman County has been awarded $200,000 to study reuse opportunities for Washington State University’s decommissioned College Avenue Steam Plant.

The Washington State Department of Ecology grant will fund a feasibility study and environmental review of the historic site on the southwest edge of campus.

Built in 1927, the steam plant once provided power, light and heat for the entire university. It closed in 2003 when the Grimes Way Steam Plant became operational, ending the era of using coal to fire university boilers. The building still houses two functioning gas-fired boilers and a small electrical substation on its ends. However, WSU and the Port envision several possible community and university uses for the remaining portions of the nearly 36,000-square-foot facility.

“For more than 75 years, the steam plant served the campus by providing power and heat. Since its closure, WSU has worked to reimagine how we revitalize this once vital part of campus. WSU is excited to partner with the Port of Whitman County to create space that will allow for research, collaboration, engagement with local business, and a destination for events that will blend the use of both the WSU campus and the greater Pullman community,” said Christopher Keane, vice president for research at WSU. 

The Port’s grant application describes a ground floor featuring a destination restaurant with food and beverages developed by the School of Food Science, as well as rooms for meetings and presentations. The two mezzanine floors would function as a commercialization center with collaborative office and lab space to allow WSU researchers and graduate students to develop their intellectual property. Outside, an events center would occupy the formerly vacant parking lot, serving as the gateway between Pullman’s downtown and the WSU campus. 

“We are thrilled to partner with the university to bring new life to this facility,” said Port Executive Director Joe Poire. “These projects necessarily take many years to complete, but once the vision is fully realized, we see the steam plant as an exciting conduit between WSU and the Port, as well as an economic engine for our communities.”

Funds from the grant will be utilized to conduct a feasibility study on these possible reuse opportunities while maintaining the plant’s current energy operations. The first step will include a focused environmental investigation to assess the site’s environmental risks and identify options for mitigation.

The state grant was part of a competitive selection process to award $2 million for projects that support the cleanup and redevelopment of a brownfield site during the 2019-2021 biennium. The Integrated Planning Grant program has been successfully employed to help local governments transform brownfield properties across Washington State since its pilot project first launched in 2007. For every $1 the state has spent to clean up brownfield sites, it has generated $12 in local and state tax revenues, $14 in payroll value and $64 in business revenue, according to the Department of Ecology.

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About the Port of Whitman County

The Port of Whitman County is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all citizens of Whitman County through industrial real estate development, preservation of multi-modal transportation, facilitation of economic development and provision of on-water recreational opportunities.