Spokane Journal of Business

Hill's Spokane office manages big WSU Tri-Cities project

More than $17 million has been pledged for Wine Science Center

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The Spokane office of Hill International Inc., a New Jersey-based construction management company, is serving as project manager for the looming construction of a Wine Science Center research and teaching facility at Washington State University Tri-Cities, in Richland.

The total cost of the project is expected to be about $23 million, with the building shell alone estimated at about $15 million, says Gary Ballew, the city of Richland's economic development manager.

WSU announced last month that an entity called the Wine Science Center Development Authority established by the city of Richland is seeking design-build proposals for the project. Statements of qualifications from prospective design-build teams were due by Jan. 22. The state of Washington's Project Review Committee approved the use of the design-build contract method for the project.

In a design-build project, a team that typically includes an architectural firm and a construction company work together to design and build a project, as opposed to the conventional method in which a project owner would hire an architect to design the project and a contractor separately to build it.

Based on the responses to the request for qualifications, three short-listed teams are to be notified by Feb. 5 that they've made the initial cut, after which the development authority will issue them a request for proposal documents. Preparation of those documents is expected to have a sizable design component, so the two participating teams that aren't awarded the contract each will be paid an honorarium of $75,000 for the design work they've performed, Ballew says.

Fundraising for the center is in the final stages, with the intent of breaking ground this fall, WSU says in a recent press release about the project. Ballew says the hope is to have the wine science center completed by August 2014, in time for the start of the new school year.

More than $17 million has been pledged toward the project during the past two years. That includes contributions of $7.4 million from the Washington State Wine Commission through industry assessments, a $5 million legislative grant, a $2 million U.S. Economic Development Administration grant for equipment, and numerous corporate and private commitments, plus in-kind donations of equipment and professional services, WSU says.

About $4 million is needed by June for construction and startup equipment, followed by a final $2 million for research equipment, the university says.

The Wine Science Center is to be constructed on a several-acre site at the corner of George Washington Way and University Drive in Richland. The research and teaching conducted there will be specific to the challenges and opportunities faced by grape growers and winemakers in the Pacific Northwest, WSU says. Washington's grape and wine industry aims to triple its economic impact—already at $8.6 billion annually—by 2020, it says.

In this unique partnership, the city of Richland created and is managing the development authority, the Port of Benton is donating some of the land, and WSU is leading the fundraising for the project. The development authority's sole purpose is to oversee the design, construction, and financing of the project, after which it will turn the facility over to WSU and dissolve, Ballew says.

Flad Architects, of San Francisco, and Meier Engineering, of Kennewick, are serving jointly as program architect on the project, which focuses on "what do you want the building to do," rather than on its specific design, Ballew says. Roger Boulton, a University of California Davis professor who spearheaded that university's recent development of a major research winery, is serving as an adviser on the programming team.

Rusty Pritchard, Hill's director of operations here and project manager for the wine science center, says that company's office here was named project manager last August, and since then has been working on project preparation.

"This is truly a research facility, first and foremost," although it also will house other types of activities, Pritchard says.

The Wine Science Center is to be a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified facility that includes laboratories, a research and teaching winery, a regional and international wine library, classrooms, and conference rooms, WSU says. The intent is to be able to connect WSU's viticulture and enology faculty and students with industry and research partners worldwide, it says.

"Every world-renowned wine region has a research university partnering in its success. In Washington, that's Washington State University," said Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Woodinville, Wash.-based Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, a WSU regent, and chairman of the WSU Campaign for Wine, in the recent press release about the project.

WSU says it has been involved in wine-related research since the 1930s, and it claims to be the only university in the Northwest offering bachelor's and graduate degrees in viticulture and enology, plus a wine business management program and a distance-education program to earn a professional certificate.

Thomas Henick-Kling, who joined WSU in 2009, is director of its viticulture and enology program, which has more than 30 faculty members in the Tri-Cities, Prosser, and Pullman.

Virginia Thomas
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