Old bones, new blood, big ideas

Downtown Bellingham is full of vacant commercial spaces and one building in particular stands as a tall reminder of that...

When the Rogue Hero closed its doors at the end of 2009, a century-old building lost its last tenant.

The building was constructed in 1906 and, at that point, housed a grocery store on the ground floor and boarding rooms on the two floors above that. Since then, the ground floor has served a variety of commercial tenants and the top floors housed a hotel and residents until a 1976 fire damaged them and made them uninhabitable. Today the prominent downtown building sits vacant, but that may soon change.

In June 2010, Finn Magelssen bought the building — his first commercial building — and is trying to resuscitate it.

“It has been many different things over the years,” Magelssen said. “It deserves to be rehabilitated. I think something needs to be done with it.”

The ground floor will again serve a commercial tenant, specifically a restaurant. Magelssen was close to reaching a deal with one restaurant in particular — a barbecue joint — but that likely won’t work out, he said. Now he is looking for interested tenants.

Finn Magelssen bought the building at 1313 N. State St. in June 2010. Ryan Wynne | BBJ

Magelssen won’t stop with the ground floor, though. He has big plans for the top two floors and is in the process of deciding whether to turn them into apartments or condos. There’s a third possibility for those floors, too. Magelssen is working with a woman who wants to convert the upper stories into a hostel.

While Magelssen’s final decision will be based on what makes the most sense financially, he definitely has a favorite option.

“I would like to see a hostel come to Bellingham for sure, and if it happens in my building, that would be fabulous,” he said.

Magelssen isn’t sure, at this point, which option will make the most economic sense. He isn’t even sure when he will get the financial analysis back. One thing he is sure about, though, is making those top two floor functional again.

And if the city’s responsiveness is any indication of its support for the project, then Magelssen is confident the city would also like to see something happen with the space. The city has been incredibly easy to work with and supportive, he said.

Magelssen is ready to move right away to get a restaurant on the ground floor, but realizes it may take awhile before his dream of filling the top floors comes to fruition.

“I am in the absolute baby phases of this,” he said.

For more information, email Magelssen at fsmdevelopment@yahoo.com.

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