BELLINGHAM - A new hotel could be under construction at Bellingham International Airport by the end of 2013 if developers and investors are interested.
Shirley McFearin, the port's real estate development manager, said the port decided to make a public solicitation to investors and developers because some were already contacting the port with proposals for a hotel project at the airport. "That tells me the timing is likely right," McFearin said.
The port is offering two potential airport hotel sites to developers. Both are about 3.5 acres. One is at the northern end of the airport property, close to Interstate 5, just south of Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute. The other is at the northeast corner of West Bakerview Road and Mitchell Way, the street that leads to the airport terminal and parking.
Although two properties are being offered for development proposals, port officials will pick the single best proposal, and there is no intention to build two hotels.
McFearin said the site with freeway visibility may seem like the more likely of the two, but that's a decision for hotel developers to make. She said the port is not specifying a size for the hotel for the same reason.
"I'm not even going to guess that," McFearin said. "We're going to let the market drive it."
The viability of an airport hotel has been increased by the growth in direct flights to Hawaii. McFearin said many Hawaii-bound Canadians prefer to deal with border crossing the night before, staying in a Whatcom County hotel to ensure a timely arrival at the airport the day of their flight.
Interested developers have been asked to give the port detailed information about their previous experience with such projects, and their ability to finance it. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 31, and port officials expect to pick the best candidate and strike a tentative deal before the end of 2012. In early 2013, a binding lease agreement would be drafted, setting the stage for the start of construction before the end of that year.
The port envisions leasing the property to the developer for 50 years, with a 25-year renewal option.
SEE THE PROPOSAL
The Port of Bellingham's proposal to developers is available at this Port of Bellingham webpage