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Monday, Jul. 20, 2009

Work set to begin on Clore wine, culinary arts center

PROSSER, Wash. -- Preliminary work is expected to start on the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center site at the beginning of August now that board members have unanimously awarded a contract to Premier Excavation of Richland.

Work is scheduled to include excavation and leveling of the site, paving of the parking area, adding utilities and overhead lighting, and hydroseeding of the outdoor event area and some landscaping, according to information from the center.

"We've been working diligently to make this thing come to fruition," said Kathy Corliss, the center's director of administration.

The site, on a bluff above the Yakima River, will be available for outdoor events in the spring of 2010.

"Our main push is that we need to get the Prosser Wine and Food Fair a place to locate," she said.

About $617,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will pay for approximately $500,000 in infrastructure costs, Corliss said.

The nearly $6.7 million facility is expected to be a gateway for Mid-Columbia visitors to learn more about Washington wines.

Education is at the heart of the vision for the center. It will include exhibits about the state's geology, grape growing areas, winemaking and agriculture, along with multipurpose space, a tasting room and other amenities.

"We envision the Clore Center as the starting point," Corliss said. "The intent is that it will not only showcase Washington wines and agriculture, but we want to give folks some tools and then send them on their way."

Original plans for the center carried a price tag of about $14 million, but a new leadership team formed last year and revamped plans after the project stalled for several years.

Now the board is working to secure a $2.5 million grant from the federal government's Economic Development Administration program, as well as $100,000 from Benton County, Corliss said.

A capital campaign already has raised nearly $1.5 million, with another $2 million committed from the state Department of Community, Trade & Economic Development, Corliss said.