Port signs agreement with waterfront redeveloper

After a year of negotiation, the Port of Bellingham reached an agreement with Harcourt Developments of Ireland for development of the first 19 acres of Bellingham’s downtown waterfront.

All three Port of Bellingham commissioners voted to sign the agreement after hours of meeting and hearing mostly negative public comments on March 31.

Port Commissioner Mike McAuley addressed public comments, which ranged from suggesting that the sale price of the land is too low to criticisms of the amount of working wage jobs the development will promote.

Mostly, McAuley said, the comments had to do with the master plan for the waterfront district, which the Port and the City of Bellingham approved in December 2013, and not with the development agreement.

The development agreement between the port and Harcourt outlines a construction timeline for new buildings, roads and parks.

Under the agreement, Harcourt must pay the port $200,000 for the Granary Building within two weeks. Another group offered $225,000 for the building during a request for proposals in 2013. At that time, four groups submitted project proposals but only Harcourt submitted a master development proposal.

The agreement requires that Harcourt “adaptively reuse” the Granary Building by 2019, finish a second building 40,000-square-feet or larger by 2021, and complete a third building by 2024.

The port commission will sell land to Harcourt at $20 per square foot, a price determined by multiple appraisals that considered geotechnical and seismic concerns on the land as well as infrastructure that the city will provide, the site’s underground infrastructure, its value to Whatcom County citizens and other considerations. The site is composed of soil and debris from dredging and construction

The Titanic Quarter in Belfast, a 300-acre redevelopment of a former shipyard is one of Harcourt’s best known developments. The firm’s other projects include retail and residential developments in Ireland, London, Las Vegas and the Bahamas.

Harcourt has been in several lawsuits over past projects, including one in Las Vegas and one over a project on the island of Jersey, a British Crown Dependency in the English Channel. Harcourt sued a Jersey state agency for money spent on work carried out before Jersey terminated Harcourt’s contract, according to the Jersey Evening Post.

A judge dismissed Harcourt’s claims in September 2014.

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