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Seattle hopes to activate Georgetown Steam Plant

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It’s for STEAM education—get it?

The interior of an industrial facility. Four concrete arches contain three floors of open railings. Courtesy of the Historic American Engineering Record, Library of Congress

The Georgetown Steam Plant opened in 1907, originally to provide power to a growing network of streetcars. Today, it’s the last of its kind—as the American Historic Engineering Record explains it, “the last operative example of vertical Curtis turbines.” At the time, it was a major technological achievement, and although the plant was decommissioned in the 1970s, the space’s history earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Today, Seattle City Light operates a monthly tour through the space’s industrial—and a little creepy—aesthetic. But the goal is to operate more than a tour out of the long-dormant steam plant.

Earlier this month, City Light issued a request for proposals (RFP) from nonprofits, hoping to partner with one to turn the facility into a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education space.

“We see the potential for a much more active use as a museum and cultural center that can inspire and educate people of all ages,” said City Light interim CEO Jim Baggs in a statement.

Under the proposal, City Light would maintain ownership and maintenance of the building, but the nonprofit would maintain a long-term lease of the property and provide all the space activation: tours, events, and a museum or cultural center.

With the partnership, City Light hopes to continue to preserve the landmark while giving more people an opportunity to experience it.

The space has already proven versatile; punk band Big Black, featuring Steve Albini, had its last show there in 1987. In 2016, local theater groups Satori Group and Artbarn built a performance around the space. It has also been used as an engineering training facility.

Nonprofits with ideas can read the RFP online.