Bellingham waterfront projects: an update

Recently completed projects and more on the drawing board

The Port of Bellingham, City of Bellingham and Harcourt continue to make headway on waterfront projects that will bring economic opportunities to the city.

The waterfront district consists of five different planning areas, each with distinct features. This includes the marine trades area, the log pond, the Bellingham Shipping Terminal, Cornwall Beach and the downtown waterfront.

Slowly but surely the downtown waterfront area is being transformed into a lively extension of downtown which will support thousands of new jobs.

The Bellingham Yoga Collective was the first business to open in the historic, 57,000-square-foot, Granary Building and more are lining up to follow suit.

“It’s getting a lot of showing activity,” said Chris Erdmann, co-founder and managing broker at Bellwether Commercial Real Estate. “As the building gets closer to becoming finished it will fill up quicker.”

The Bellingham Yoga Collective is located on the third floor of the building and marks a major milestone for the multi-phase redevelopment plans.

Honey Salon will likely be the next tenants to occupy the fourth and fifth floor and have about 40 hairstylists, Erdmann said.

If all goes as planned there will be office space on the 12,000 square-foot second floor and support a 120 person occupancy, Erdmann added. As well as a full-service type restaurant.

The first floor will have multiple types of vendors to create an open market place. Potential vendors include a brewpub, coffee shop, food stands and a handful of other businesses. There is potential for a kayak and paddle-board rental shop, Erdmann said.

“What’s exciting about a marketplace is that it will have an ever-flowing personality,” Erdmann said. “I believe when the doors do open, the marketplace is going to be a really great community experience for families.”

Another milestone was marked by the September 28, grand opening of the waterfront pump track. The addition to the site invites the biking community and spectators to explore the area. The pump track was strategically placed in the path of a future city park.

“It has been a game-changer for the community and it’s just the start of that access,” director of environmental planning, Brian Gouran, said. “You could see it when the pump track opened just the amount of people that were down there. It way exceeded what we expected.”

The completion of Granary Avenue and Laurel Street signifies the first opening of that side of the site to the public in 100 years, Gouran said. The roadway incorporates Bellingham’s first cycle track, which is a distinct bike lane in between the road and the sidewalk.

Permitting and construction of residential condos along the Whatcom Waterway near Waypoint Park is expected to pick up pace in Q1 of 2020, public affairs administrator, public affairs administrator, Mike Hogan, said.

“We have a large amount of property and it’s going to take many years to develop,” Hogan said.

Currently, geological testing is being done for the project, Hogan added. The design for the project includes 94 condo units, commercial space and below-ground parking. The condos will include solar panels for lighting in and around the building.

Also on the drawing board is 150,000 square feet of office space across the street from the Granary Building and 300 parking spaces, according to Harcourt’s website.

The historic Board Mill building has the potential to become a high-end hotel and conference center. It would first need to be updated to code requirements for things like occupancy and seismic load.

Currently, the Port is modifying a development agreement with Harcourt for the Board Mill building, Hogan said. The Irish developer has experience in building several hotels in Ireland and England using old, existing structures.

Future development of the site aims to incorporate shared community values of sustainability, Hogan said. The Port signed a memorandum of understanding with Corix Utilities, out of Canada, to develop a district energy system for the site. The energy system would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support efficient heating and cooling for buildings.

There are opportunities for local renewable energy such as collecting waste heat from the steam of the Encogen Generating Station or from the cities sewer system to heat water for the buildings. There is also the potential to use a water main from Lake Whatcom to create micro-hydro energy.

There are also incentives baked into the master plan that encourage sustainable practices and projects.

“There is a lot going on and a lot of opportunity for growth in a variety of sectors, not just mixed-use or shipping,” Gouran said. “This is going to be a long and methodical build-out of this waterfront district with a variety of different job opportunities.


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