First tenant planned for Fairhaven's Orca Building

By Emily Hamann

Fairhaven’s Orca Building could soon have its first tenant. Peter James Photography Gallery and Studio plans to lease a gallery and studio space in the building. It’s expected to open in June, in the southwest corner on the second floor. Photographer Peter James said he plans on signing the lease in the next few days.

James has been working out of a studio at 314 East Holly St., Bellingham for 14 years. Over time, James said, his business has shifted from being a commercial studio to being more of a gallery, and he needed a new space to reflect that shift. The new 1,600 square-foot space in the Orca Building will serve as a gallery for James to display his nature photography, as well as a studio for portraits and commercial work.

Peter James (Contributed photo)
Peter James (Contributed photo)

“We really want this gallery to become a hub for nature lovers in northwest Washington,” James said.

He also plans to hold events, concerts and speakers at the gallery.

James had been looking for space in Fairhaven for a while, he said, but picked the Orca Building after seeing an illustration of the building that included the orca artwork. The building’s namesake came into reality in early March. An orca sculpture was installed on the corner of the building, and is made to look like it is crashing through the brick wall.

“This is the perfect place for a nature photography gallery,” James said. “Because it has the nature theme built into the whole building.”

Once in the new space, James plans on hiring one to two more photographers. His wife Ima will manage the gallery.

James hired architect Dave Christensen, who designed the entire building, to design the gallery space. Scoboria Construction will do the build out of the gallery.

The building as a whole is expected to be ready for occupancy in four weeks, building owner Neal Robinson said.

In the next week, the curb, sidewalks and gutters will be complete and then crews will work on landscaping through April, Robinson said. In another month, the bathrooms and hallways are expected to be complete, he said.

James’ gallery is the first confirmed tenant, although Robinson said other businesses have expressed interest in the building, despite it not even being on the market yet.

“We’ll be marketing the building wholeheartedly in another two weeks,” he said.

The building is set up for professional offices upstairs and retail and food service on the ground floor.

Construction began in fall 2016. The leasing agent is K.C. Coonc of Windermere Real Estate.

This summer, Robinson said he and his company Robinson Hardwood and Homes have plans to start on another building behind the Orca Building. That building will be apartments, with underground parking, he said.

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