Bellingham's Maritime Museum gets new lease from Port

The Bellingham Maritime Museum has reached a new lease agreement with the Port of Bellingham, which will allow the facility to continue its operations, albiet in a much smaller capacity.

The new lease, which port commissioners approved unanimously during a May 7 meeting, is for one year at $1,500 per month and gives the museum 6,000 square feet of space in a port-owned warehouse at 800 Cornwall Ave.

The museum had previously been leasing 3,000 square feet inside the same building since 2005, although on a month-to-month agreement with the port for $750 per month. However, over the years, the museum’s exhibits began to fill more of the warehouse, eventually using about 25,000 square feet.

In March, port staff said the museum would not be allowed to continue using the larger space, leading the museum’s director, Mike Granat, to say the facility might have to shut down entirely.

With the new agreement, the museum will remain open. Yet curators and volunteers will need to vastly reduce the size of its boat collection. Some of its most popular military watercraft will stay, including a Vietnam War-era Patrol Boat River, commonly called a PBR, which built in 1966 by United Boat Builders of Bellingham, according to the museum’s website.

Granat said, in a press release from the port, that the lease arrangement was made possible with help from a surge of new sponsorship from local individuals, businesses and foundations.

Shirley McFearin, the port’s real estate director, said a major challenge in the agreement was finding a lease arrangement that would reflect the market value of the museum. Compared to standard port rental rates, the museum’s agreement “is on the very low end,” McFearin said.

Yet considering the limited alternatives for the port’s warehouse on Cornwall Avenue, the leasing rate met agreeable terms, she said.

Along with its military watercraft, the Bellingham Maritime Museum offers a collection of civilian vessels, as well as exhibits reflecting the area’s waterfront heritage, including Native American canoes and antique maritime compasses and telescopes.

The museum is open to the public from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

More information is online at www.bellinghammaritimemuseum.org.

Evan Marczynski, lead reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or evan@bbjtoday.com

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