McKinstry Station Remediation and Redevelopment

Rejuvenating a contaminated property cleared the path for green redevelopment of the historic Great Northern Building.

Located in Spokane’s thriving University District, the property formerly known as Taylor Edwards lies along the Spokane River and is a prime commercial development site. BNSF Railway Company formerly owned the property and the historic Great Northern Building located there. The site had once been used for railcar repair and had also been leased for foundry activities from the early 1920s to the 1950s, resulting in elevated lead and arsenic concentrations in the soil and shallow groundwater. Upon discovery of contamination, BNSF committed to fully assessing and remediating the property.

BNSF hired GeoEngineers to assess the site and design and implement a remediation plan, and then to conduct a cleanup that protected human health and the environment, enhanced the shoreline habitat and enabled future site development. GeoEngineers’ staff worked closely with BNSF and regulators to create a cost-effective and sustainable remedial approach and design.

GeoEngineers implemented the remedial design and observed construction activities, including removing soil, consolidating hot-spot areas and capping soil in less contaminated areas. In 2010, BNSF sold the site to McKinstry, which purchased the site to develop a sustainable “green” building and lease office space for green technology companies. Working with McKinstry, GeoEngineers continued to provide support, designing new foundations, a geoexchange heat system and stormwater management facilities for future development.

GeoEngineers’ role has evolved into helping the new owner with sustainable development solutions for the site and its recently renamed landmark, the SIERR Building at McKinstry Station.


Multidisciplinary Approach and Team

  • Provided comprehensive environmental services: assessment, groundwater monitoring and hydrogeological analysis, conceptual site remediation, regulatory interaction and negotiation, permitting with several agencies, remedial design (plans and specifications), contractor procurement and remedial construction observation.
  • Completed a geotechnical evaluation as a basis for designing new foundations and stormwater management facilities
  • Provided a technical and cost analysis on the advantages and disadvantages of open-loop and closed-loop geoexchange heat systems
  • Currently providing special inspection and material testing during redevelopment of the historic Taylor Edwards property

Comprehensive Coordination Between Multiple Parties

  • Worked closely with the local Washington State Department of Ecology office to obtain all necessary permits and ensure all activities were completed in accordance to state and local regulations
  • Interacted and negotiated with other regulatory agencies on permitting activities
  • Facilitated conversations between BNSF and McKinstry during the property sale
  • Coordinated a proactive approach to obtain necessary permit documents, which enabled construction to proceed on schedule and within permit compliance

Sustainability from Start to Finish

  • Created a cost-effective remedial design that exceeded the client’s cleanup goals
  • Excavated and reused more than 2,000 tons of soil on site, minimizing soil removal costs
  • Preserved and enhanced the riparian areas along the property and adjacent to the Spokane River, including planting 115 trees
  • Conducted an enhanced pilot study and thermal conductivity test to optimize the location, orientation, depth and layout of the borefield to enable maximum geoexchange system efficiency, reduce owner risk and lower first and long-term cost

Public Involvement and Stakeholder Experience

  • Led community involvement meetings to inform and involve stakeholders
  • Modified work schedule to minimize noise disruption during certain working hours and to accommodate nearby public events


  • Designed and implemented a remedial design approach to bring an abandoned, underutilized property into productive and beneficial use, rejuvenating an industrial neighborhood
  • Removed nearly 4,000 tons of hazardous waste and 961 tons of non-hazardous waste
  • Remediated a site that enabled the owner to sell and the new owner to build a new green-energy building in the University District

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