Vancouver developer eyes Bakerview area

Heidi Schiller
   The Meridian Neighborhood may soon be getting some new neighbors.
   A group of developers are planning to build a 60-unit, townhouse-style, live-work development on almost five acres of land at 195 East Bellis Fair Parkway. If completed, the project would be the largest live-work development in the city.
   The undeveloped property, located to the east of Meridian Street, fronts East Bellis Fair Parkway and is bounded by Bakerview Road and Spring Creek.
   Vancouver-based developer Jim Laing said the development will include affordable housing geared toward first-time homebuyers and Meridian-area employees.
   “Our goal is to provide affordable living in that neighborhood that would be of interest to a wide sector of the market, either neighborhood employees or new homeowners,” he said. “It’s a type of urban community the city is trying to achieve more of.”
   The project is still in its design phase, but Laing said less than half of the property is developable due to its proximity to Spring Creek. While the focus of the eventual plan will be on townhouses, Laing said the design will provide a mix of various-sized homes and will accentuate the property’s natural features.
   The developers have held one neighborhood meeting for the project so far and will host more in the future. They plan to perform environmental studies and work with city planners before applying for building permits, Laing said. He said he has consulted with city planners about providing trails and public spaces in the development.
   Laing said he hopes to submit a design-review permit for the site within the next 90 days and thinks it will take another six to nine months before they break ground.
   Other investors in the group, called Bellis Fair LLP, include Kathy Varner, CPA and principal at Varner, Sytsma & Herndon; Hugh Wiebe, president and CEO of Neova Technologies; and the project’s Vancouver-based architect, Timothy Ankenman of Ankenman Marchand Architects.
   The group purchased the land from Ronald and Marilyn Bennett for $950,000 in April, according to Whatcom County records.
   Laing and Ankenman are also in the process of developing a site at 950 Lincoln St. — the former East Village Mongolian Grill location — into a mixed-use residential and retail development. Laing said he has submitted building permits for the site and hopes to break ground there this month.
   City Planner Brian Smart said the city has been working with the developers on wetlands and setbacks issues for the East Bellis Fair Parkway site. He said that while the city has received a few live-work proposals, so far none have come to fruition on this scale.
   “I think it’s a unique opportunity for people, and I’m anxious to see someone develop one and see how it works out,” he said. “They seem to work well in other communities.”
   Julianna Guy, a board member of the Guide Meridian/Cordata Neighborhood Association, said the area’s residents would like to see more parks, trails and possibly a community center included in any new development in the neighborhood.
   “We’ve had many terrible developments up here. Things are jammed together and there is no space for trails or parks. We have been extremely disappointed in the way the city and the county have allowed development up here to progress,” she said.

New life for local boatyard

Heidi Schiller
   The owners of Seaview North Boatyard will open a new boat-repair yard at the former Padden Creek Marine site this spring.
   The Port of Bellingham approved a lease with the new boatyard, called Seaview Yacht Service Fairhaven, on May 1.
   The 80,000-square-foot site is located in the Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park, at 9th Street and Harris Avenue in Fairhaven, in buildings four and five. The site includes a boatlift and launch.
   Owners of the Seattle-based company, which currently operates three boatyards in the state, including Seaview North in Squalicum Harbor, decided to open a second Bellingham location because of high demand for its services.
   “(Bellingham) is a really good market for us, there are a lot of boaters there,” business manager John Papajani said. “The north yard is full, and there’s just such a demand for services.”
   The new site will offer the same services as Seaview North, including general maintenance, such as washing and waxing; fiberglass repairs and modifications; painting; wood repair and mechanical-systems repair; as well as a self-service option for owners to work on their own boats.
   Papajani said work would begin immediately to upgrade the property, which includes two buildings totaling 17,000 square feet; the new yard will likely hire about 10 local employees.
   Seaview opened its first boatyard, Seaview West, at Seattle’s Shilshole Bay Marina in the mid-‘70s and opened another, Seaview East, in Ballard in the mid-‘80s. Seaview North opened at Squalicum Harbor in 2002, which, Papajani said, is the company’s largest operation. Seaview Yacht Service Fairhaven will be its fourth boatyard.
   Padden Creek Marine built and repaired fiberglass pleasure boats at the site for 16 years before it closed last year. At the time, general manager Chris Duppenthaler said the increased cost of oil-based products used to manufacture fiberglass boats led to the company’s financial failure, as well as rising health-care costs.
   Robert Moors, president of Unicraft Marine Products, said he welcomed a new boatyard to the area.
   “It would be good to have a yard over here. I’m all for it,” he said.
   Moors, whose business produces marine-exhaust systems, has been located in the Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park since 1960. He said marine businesses in Bellingham are currently doing fairly well, despite recent material-price increases that resulted in a slower, less profitable year for his business in 2006.
   “But that’s not too unusual,” he said. “The marine business can be very cyclical.”

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