After several years of quiet, building at Barkley Village is kicking off again. The Barkley Company, which owns the majority of the land and buildings at the 250-acre urban village in Bellingham, plans on breaking ground on an apartment complex this summer, with several other projects to follow.
“We’ve taken a break for a few years,” Stowe Talbot, who serves as president of the Barkley Company and owns the development with his sister Jane Talbot, said. “I think we’re going to be making up for that in the next year or two, we’ve got several projects going up at the same time.”
To help guide the development, the company has promoted Michael Bayless as CEO. The promotion was announced in January.
Bayless joined the company in July of 2018.
“I spent the last three quarters of a year gaining an understanding of what Stowe and Jane have envisioned for the village,” Bayless said.
Bayless has a background in accounting, and spent the previous 13 years at Dawson Construction, where most recently he served as CFO.
He first became connected with the Barkley Company through Dawson Construction, which built several Barkley Village projects.
“It was a good fit for me,” Bayless said. “And they felt like I was a good fit for them.”
Bayless’ varied background is a good match for the Barkley Company’s work, Stowe Talbot said.
“What we do here at Barkley Company is a little bit unusual in that we’re developers and property managers, and also Jane and I have holdings in other companies, so we’re kind of a holding company as well,” Stowe Talbot said. “And Mike has had experience kind of in all those things, so he was the perfect fit for us.”
Stowe and Jane Talbot are the second generation to preside over the Barkley Village. Their father Jim Talbot originally bought the land to use to expand the family’s company Bellingham Cold Storage. At the time, the property included access to a spur of railroad, which the company planned to use.
However, soon after, the section of railroad that went out to the land was shut down.
“Simultaneously, the city began to dissuade my father from building industrial out here,” Stowe Talbot said.
The land sat empty for around a decade before the idea for Barkley Village came about.
The first major activity was the commercial office building for Zodiac Aerospace.
Their next project was the first of the eventual three office buildings on Rimland Drive.
“That’s kind of the beginning of this urban village concept,” Stowe Talbot said. “Subsequently every year we’ve done a building or two.”
Construction on the Regal Cinemas movie theater and its adjacent buildings began in 2011. The Cornerstone apartment building went up shortly afterward.
“Two big projects that really taxed our resources, I would say, so we took the opportunity to wait and replenish the bank account,” Stowe Talbot said. In the meantime, the company has been working on finding tenants for its existing spaces, improving the infrastructure and parks, and tenant improvement projects.
Then last summer, the Talbots sold a majority share of Bellingham Cold Storage to Seattle investment firm Joshua Green Corp.
“With the transition here with the sale of BCS, the company was kind of infused with cash and the development piece was going to be kicking back off,” Bayless said. That’s when the Talbots brought Bayless on board.
The next major project will be a 92-unit apartment complex, which will be built along Barkley Boulevard next to the existing apartment building.
Bayless said the company is also in negotiations to build a new 20,000-square-foot, single-tenant commercial office building, and in negotiations to sell a few building pads for retail or restaurants.
The priority, Stowe Talbot said, is on residential.
“We’re a little behind in terms of the number of housing units we have in our urban village,” he said. “So I’m particularly enthusiastic about getting caught up and building more housing as soon as possible.”
Currently Barkley Village has one 36-unit condo complex, plus the 116-unit Cornerstone Building.
“Going forward a lot of what you’ll see in Barkley Village will be residential of different kinds,” Stowe Talbot said.
“I think it’s Jane’s and my intention to make sure that the projects or type of residential that we build is varied, and caters to different walks of life and socioeconomic strata.”
Stowe Talbot said that it could be 20, 30 or even 40 years before Barkley Village is completely built out.
“We’re definitely a little bit unusual in that we’re not opportunistic,” Stowe Talbot said. “We have such economies of scale that we can take our time and think about the planning of the whole in each project that we do.”
The fact that the company already owns the land means there doesn’t need to be a big rush, Bayless said.
“We have very patient capital from the perspective of, we have the land, so we’re not necessarily forced to jump at every opportunity that comes along,” Bayless said. “It’s really geared back toward what Jane and Stowe’s ultimate vision is for the project.”
In the coming years, Stowe Talbot said he’d like to see a good variety of tenants in the commercial and retail spaces, including more civic uses, like the YMCA daycare that currently exists, and eventually a hotel and recreation facility.
More residential will also help build community, Stowe Talbot said, in that residents at the village help turn it into a 24-hour neighborhood, instead of just a place people go to work.
Park projects like the new Barkley Green also help with that.
Originally designated as a pad for another commercial building on Rimland Drive, the Barkley Village Green is now a park, which last year hosted events including nonprofit Lydia Place’s annual fundraiser Handbags for Housing, and a concert put on by a local radio station.
This summer, the Bellingham Farmers Market will move its Wednesday market from Fairhaven to the Barkley Village Green as well.
“We’re pretty excited about that too,” Bayless said. “Just creating that community environment, where the residents as well as the professionals and workers throughout the village feel that there is something here more than just either their housing or their job.”
“More of a community for them.”