Port wooing Delta Airlines

Effort could result in nonstop service between Bellingham and Salt Lake City

   The Port of Bellingham is hopeful that within the next two months they will reach an agreement with Delta Airlines to offer nonstop flights from Bellingham to Salt Lake City.
   Port of Bellingham Executive Director Jim Darling confirmed they had been negotiating with Delta, and that the ball is now in their court.
   “Delta has been looking at several markets recently, and we’re one of the areas on the list,” Darling said. “We’d like to hear from them in the next 30 to 60 days about their decision.”
   Darling has been encouraging people in the business community to write letters to Delta about the need for nonstop service to Salt Lake City, hoping the letters will help Bellingham stand out.
   “We’ve presented demographic information showing a significant number of people are driving to Seatac, fighting traffic and increasing their time spent traveling,” Darling said. “A nonstop flight to Salt Lake City from Bellingham would be attractive for travelers in this area, because it would allow for more direct routes to the East Coast.”
   Darling said the port has been soliciting airlines since United left soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Last year they landed Allegiant Air, which offers direct flights to Las Vegas.
   The port has spent the past 18 months trying to lure Delta and other major airlines to join Horizon Air and Allegiant Air at the Bellingham airport. It was high on the list of things to accomplish in the 2004 corporate strategic plan.
Darling and other port officials are convinced there is a significant amount of travelers who would rather avoid driving through downtown Seattle to get to Seatac airport.
   “Traffic congestion in Seattle is something more people in this area have complained about,” Darling said.
   Darling has noticed two new trends taking shape that have made mid-tier size airports such as Bellingham’s more attractive. The first trend is the airlines looking for ways to become less reliant on the major hub networks, and the second is the airlines have been purchasing smaller planes that make better economic sense for the companies, and are better suited for smaller airports.
   “We remain optimistic that we will add another airline to the airport,” Darling said. “Looking at the numbers, we think Bellingham can support an airline like Delta.”

Bovencamp buys Hempler’s site

   Fred Bovenkamp is going to be a busy man in the coming months.
Bovenkamp, a local real estate developer, recently purchased the Hempler’s B&B Meat & Sausage Company building at 1401 F St. for $600,000, and hopes to eventually redevelop the site into a mixed-use, multi-story building that has condominiums on the upper floors and commercial and retail spaces on the first floor, and possibly underground parking as well.
   This is the latest project for Bovenkamp, who has nearly a dozen plans on sites throughout the county, including the establishment of a home remodeling design center on East Bakerview Road and a 600-unit residential village in the Semiahmoo area.
   “It’s a lot for us to do right now, but it’s great to have these opportunities available,” Bovenkamp said.
   The Hempler’s site may be the most intriguing to Bovenkamp, because he hasn’t had many opportunities to be part of a revitalization project that involved working with the city in constructing a multi-story building.
   “This site seemed like an opportunity to be at the ground level of a major redevelopment that will really benefit the area,” Bovenkamp said.
   The plan for the site is to have Hempler’s Meats remain in the building while construction begins on the company’s new 26,731-square-foot facility at 5470 Nielsen Ave., near Hovander Park in Ferndale. Owner Dick Hempler said a groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for July 15 and he expects the building to be completed by December. His company will move out of Bellingham at the end of January, after the busy holiday season.
   With the city of Bellingham beginning the public-comment period for Old Town zoning and neighborhood plans, Bovenkamp is hoping there will be changes to the height restrictions that will allow him to build a five- or six-story building, reaching 75 feet in height.
   The current height restrictions for buildings in Old Town north of Whatcom Creek is three stories, but city officials have indicated some buildings would need to be taller to help accommodate the projected growth in the city.
   “We’re still early in the planning process, but we envision something similar to the Marketplace building (on the corner of Holly Street and Railroad Avenue),” Bovenkamp said. “To make it work cost-wise, we would need something that is taller than the current height restrictions allow.”
   Building heights were a bone of contention in the community when city last held public hearings on the topic nearly two years ago. Bovenkamp has been impressed at what the city has done in that time to update the plans.
   “The city is taking a much different approach this time when it comes to view corridors, which I hope will help diffuse the concern of the community. Building height restrictions can be a difficult subject to tackle, but I think the city is doing a better job creating a plan that makes everyone a little happier about what is happening,” Bovenkamp said.
   On East Bakerview Road, construction has just started on a 25,000-square-foot building that will house Main Street Cabinets, a two-year-old company currently located at 3975 Irongate Rd., and several other home-improvement divisions that Bovenkamp is starting, including floor covering and closet construction.
   All the divisions, including Main Street Cabinets, will be under the name of Elements Design Center.
   The general contractor for the new building is Colacurcio Brothers Construction Inc. of Blaine.
   “I envision this business to be a one-stop center for home remodeling,” Bovenkamp said. “With all the construction that is taking place in Whatcom County, it’s a booming industry.”
   Bovenkamp said Main Street Cabinets has done extremely well since it was founded more than two years ago. Most of his clients are contractors, but he expects to have more consumers drop in when the new location is completed later this year.
   “We will have a state-of-the-art showroom, which we hope will appeal to consumers who are working on home remodeling projects,” Bovenkamp said.
Within the next three months, Bovenkamp is also hoping to have county approval to begin his Semiahmoo area project, called Horizons. Located on 150 acres near Semiahmoo Parkway and Birch Point Drive, Bovenkamp is planning a 600-unit community that will have 11 acres dedicated for commercial space. He envisions a high-end, 20,000-square-foot market to be at the location, along with a bank, restaurants, a real estate office and other services that the people in that housing development would need.
   “I think this project will be a prototype for a rural urban village,” Bovenkamp said.    “Creating a retail-oriented hub near a residential project of this size will help solve a problem where people have to drive into urban areas to get basic services.”
Along with those projects, Bovenkamp is also working on a few condominium projects on Bakerview Road and a residential project in Point Whitehorn.
   “It means doing some juggling, but I’m excited about all of these projects,” Bovenkamp said. “They are the kind of projects that will improve the rural and urban communities.”

Tolchin sells Puget Sound Energy building
Looking for developer to turn Penney’s site into condos

   Doug Tolchin has sold a 40,000-square-foot, three-story building on 1329 N. State St., along with two parcels on 1300 N. Forest St. for $3 million to Newill LLC.
The building, formerly owned by Puget Sound Energy, has tenants that include PSE, State Street Depot and River Oak Properties. Tolchin purchased the building in June 1997 for $765,000.
   When he purchased it in 1997, Tolchin said he would spend about $2 million renovating the building, which he renamed Mountain Bay Plaza. Tolchin wasn’t able to complete all of the internal projects he wanted to do with the building.
   “I was able to get a restaurant in the building and renovate some of it, but was unable to finish work on the third floor,” Tolchin said. “Renovating the third floor and possibly adding a fourth floor is something I think the new owner plans on doing.”
Not much information was available about the new owner. Tolchin said the buyer was out of the country at press time.
   The selling of the building is part of Tolchin’s plan to get out of the commercial real estate business. To date, Tolchin has sold 11 of the 14 buildings he owned a few years ago, and is planning to sell the other three, located on Cornwall Avenue and Railroad Avenue.
   The biggest of his three remaining buildings is the former JC Penney building at 1318 Cornwall Ave. Tolchin has already made design plans for it to become a mixed-use building and is hopeful he will be able to sell it to a condominium developer.
   “The condominium market is quite strong right now in Bellingham; developers can get much more money per square foot than they can for office space,” Tolchin said.
   The plans Tolchin designed for the building include having 40 lower level parking spaces and two additional stories added to the building, which would create 36 condo units totaling 45,000 square feet. The street level would then be used for commercial retail space.
   “I think it would be a nice mixed-use project, having condominium spaces in the downtown area with good views of downtown,” Tolchin said. “However, I would prefer to turn it over to someone else and have them develop it.”
   Tolchin has been focusing his attention on developing a new environmental-technology company.
   He said the new company is in the early planning stages, and hopes to have it operating in the first quarter of 2006.


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