By Isaac Bonnell and Ryan Wynne
After more than a year of construction, the first and largest of four Bellwether Gate buildings is open and the major tenant, engineering firm CH2M HILL, has moved into its new offices.
The company occupies about two-thirds of the 86,000-square-foot, four-story building, and had approximately $2.1 million of furniture and equipment installed for its 215 employees, said David Boyer, director of operations for CH2M HILL.
Previously, the company was spread out over seven floors, each with it’s own copy and print stations and conference rooms. Now most of the employees are located on two large floors, the company has been able to design a more efficient work space and employees don’t have to travel between floors as often.
CH2M HILL is planning to have an open house in mid-September so people can see the space, Boyer said.
Much of the building is leased up and the engineering firm will be joined by a few notable tenants on the ground floor: Giuseppe’s Al-Porto, which is set to open Aug. 13; AlyBlue Boutique, a formal dress and gift shop; and Kookaburra Coffee House, which will feature locally roasted Hammerhead coffee and Australian wines.
“The only thing that is vacant is four to five spaces on the first floor. They’re real small, so I think they’ll lease quickly,” project developer Dave Ebenal said at a July 20 Port of Bellingham meeting.
Giuseppe’s Al-Porto will occupy about 5,500 square feet of space on the west side of the building, facing the marina, and will feature a centralized, open kitchen, said owner Giuseppe Mauro.
Mauro said his restaurant’s Cornwall Avenue kitchen was too closed off and that the new restaurant will feature a kitchen “where everyone can smell all of the fresh herbs and aromas.”
That’s not the only way the new restaurant will deviate from the current. Because the current restaurant is in an old building, Mauro said, he tried to create an old Italian ambiance. He said that ambiance may have created the impression the restaurant is only for special occasions. The new restaurant is a chance for Mauro to start fresh and create the atmosphere he wants.
“This is my dream restaurant,” Mauro said. “It’s a new building so I got to design the space.”
Mauro said he wants everyone to feel welcome in his restaurant no matter what they are wearing or how much they order, even if a glass of wine is the only item on the tab.
“Come and enjoy as you are,” he said.
The new restaurant will have an indoor dining area, a bar and a private area that can be divided into two and a patio for outdoor dining that looks out onto the bay with a capacity to seat 90 guests.
The restaurant will still serve the classic Italian fare it served at the old restaurant, but Mauro said he is giving special emphasis on seafood sold at the restaurant. That emphasis includes a sign redesign that incorporates fish swimming into the background.
“Seafood for us, it’s an everyday diet. We know how to cook it,” Mauro said.
Next door at AlyBlue Boutique, owner Lynda Fell will be embarking on a new direction for her business, formerly known as the Little Green Formal Shop, and emerging from a year-long journey through grief.
Nearly a year has passed since her daughter, Alyssa Fell, was killed in a tragic car accident in Burlington while coming home from watching a swim meet in Federal Way.
“When the accident happened, it just totally shattered life as we knew it,” Lynda said. “It will be a year on Aug. 5, but to us it’s still yesterday. Focusing on these businesses is what gets us out of bad feelings. I feel like this little shop is what she left behind to keep me going.”
It was Aly who first convinced her mom to open the Little Green Formal Shop in Ferndale, where Lynda sold new and consigned dresses and Aly sold her handcrafted jewelry. After Aly’s death, Lynda began making soaps as her own form of therapy and began selling them in the store. The products sold so well that she created an entire line of products called AlyBlue Gourmet Skincare.
The Little Green Formal Shop has since outgrown its space, so Lynda decided to move it to a 1,200-square-foot space in Bellwether Gate and change the name to AlyBlue Boutique.
“We are a destination business and this is an easier location to meet everyone’s needs,” Lynda said, adding that she has customers from Everett to Vancouver, B.C.
The store will still sell prom and wedding dresses, but will also carry more gifts such as hand-painted wine glasses and AlyBlue skin care products, she said.
As for Kookaburra Coffee House, which will be right next door, that was her husband James’ idea. As a superintendent on the project with Ebenal General Construction, he had his eye on a 1,000-square-foot space for a coffee shop, Lynda said. The shop will offer coffee from Hammerhead Coffee Roasters and the couple have applied for a liquor license to sell wines from Australia, where James was born and raised.
AlyBlue Boutique is scheduled to be open by Sept. 1 and the coffee shop will open a few weeks later, Lynda said.