There are many facets to a successful and sustainable railway museum. Rarely seen but always felt are the results of successful finance and administration efforts. This week provided a excellent illustration when the Northwest Railway Museum closed on a tax exempt bond issued by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. The once-in-four-years opportunity closed February 29, 2016.
Building the Railway History Center in Snoqualmie has been a monumental effort for an organization the size of the Northwest Railway Museum. There is now more than 33,000 square feet of indoor exhibit, collection storage, and collection care space. And another 5,000 square feet will be under construction in a few short weeks., which will provide public restrooms, a classroom, an archival vault, collection lab, admissions and program offices. All of this is the result of tens of thousands of volunteer hours, thousands of full time staff hours, and an investment of millions of dollars, most of it donated to the cause. However, some of the infrastructure has eluded even the best fund raising efforts. Fortunately, the Museum found a viable alternative.
Washington State has a tax exempt bond program that was created for low income and below market rate housing, and for community facilities such as hospitals, and even history museums. After a months long process, Pacific Continental Bank of Eugene, Oregon has purchased a tax exempt bond from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. (Pacific Continental is a regional bank that specializes in banking services for non profit corporations. They have a branch in Bellevue, Washington too.) Proceeds of this 25 year bond are underwriting current and future infrastructure needs including the city water main extension to the site, the force sewer main that stretches more than 1/2 mile into Snoqualmie, a parking lot, and more. The interest rate is similar to a jumbo home mortgage, and provides long term financial stability for the Museum. Now the Museum can focus on the next phase of construction: let the digging begin!