Foss Waterway Seaport receives two major grants

The Foss Waterway Seaport announced Wednesday it has received a $50,000 grant from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Foundation and $25,000 from KeyBank in support of the Seaport’s waterfront education, cultural and activity center.

These grants kick off the second phase of the Seaport’s capital campaign that has a goal of raising $5 million in cash and pledges by the end of 2008. This follows a highly successful first phase effort that raised $3.7 million by the close of 2006. To date, nearly $4 million has been raised toward the overall campaign goal of $21 million, led by $1 million in support from the Seaport’s Board of Directors.

The contribution from BNSF is especially notable given that the centerpiece of the Seaport project is the Balfour Dock Building constructed nearly a century ago by the Northern Pacific Railroad, a predecessor to the BNSF,” according to Foss Waterway Seapot executive director Tom Cashman.

“We are grateful and excited to have involvement from the company that has had an integral role in Tacoma’s working waterfront for more than 100 years,” said Cashman. “BNSF and its predecessor, the Northern Pacific, made our project possible by constructing a remarkable building on the Foss Waterway that we feel honored to call our home and privileged to be preserving as a lasting legacy.”

KeyBank’s contribution is the first major support for the Seaport from a major financial institution. The bank’s gift will be used to support the Seaport’s Balfour Boatworks, a boat building shop that will feature a workforce development program. This will come in the form of training future workers in woodworking, basic boatbuilding techniques, and other skills needed in both the maritime and broader construction trades. “A major component of the Balfour Boatworks is partnerships with other organizations focusing on workforce development,” says Cashman. “As an example, we are already collaborating with the Bates Technical College Boat School to train students in building a heritage Foss rowing boat, which will later be part of our public boat rental livery. With an improved and larger boat building facility, the opportunities to do more of this kind of work are almost endless. We appreciate KeyBank’s generosity in making this happen.”

The Foss Waterway Seaport project aims to re-establish downtown public access to Tacoma’s waterfront and to uniquely celebrate this city’s maritime culture and working waterfront heritage. The project involves an eventual total investment of $18.7 million in public and private funds to restore and adaptively re-use the Balfour Dock Building, adjacent land and in-water space. Once completed, this effort will preserve in perpetuity 6 percent of the remaining Foss Waterway property for public use and access. The Seaport will also serve as the home for Tall Ships 2008.

Foss Waterway Seaport Executive Director Tom Cashman. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)