BELLINGHAM - From the outside, it doesn't appear much is happening to the enormous structure that will soon be the Barkley movie theater.
It's a much different story from the inside, as up to 100 construction workers were inside busily installing wiring and other infrastructure last week to stay on schedule. This week the south portion of the 68,000-square-foot building will be turned over to Regal Cinemas, which will begin installing its stadium seating and movie equipment.
Handing over a portion of the building to Regal is another step on what's been a long road for the Barkley Company, which announced plans to build the theater in November 2010. The first phase alone is the largest, most complex and most expensive the company has taken on, said Jeff Kochman, president of Barkley Company.
"I would say the project has gone extremely well to this point," said Kochman. "It (the theater) is different than building a big-box type of structure; there's a level of complexity in what goes inside that's much more challenging."
The theater and the two other buildings are on track to be completed by the end of November, with the movie theater opening in early December, perhaps in time for the release of a variety of end-of-year releases including the first of "The Hobbit" movies.
The two separate buildings near the theater will have four tenants, one of which is The Woods Coffee, with the other three businesses to be announced after final negotiations are completed. Kochman characterized the unnamed tenants as being in the food service/restaurant category.
The general contractor for the theater building is Robinson Construction of Portland, Ore., while Bellingham-based Dawson Construction is the main contractor for the two retail buildings.
Even without the screens and seating, the inside of the main building is taking on the look of a movie theater. Most rooms are ready for the different screens, which include one IMAX screen, along with two large screens that will use Regal's own similar technology. It will also have six 3D and seven conventional movie screens, said Kochman, who gave a tour of the facility last week. Along with a concessionaire/ticket section, the building will have a video game area.
Building B, which is in front of the movie theater building just to the right of the main entrance, has a fair amount of height to it to make the theater building look less imposing, Kochman said. A significant portion of the building will be enclosed in glass.
The third building, which will be home to The Woods Coffee and one other tenant, will have an upper-level mezzanine for seating, a drive-thru window for Woods and a large plaza out front for people who are being picked up and dropped off for the movies. Kochman said the goal is to have that area be an active place during the morning and early afternoon, while the movie theater is expected to be most active in the evening.
For Woods Coffee, the mezzanine will have a similar look to the Boulevard Park café. It will have two fireplaces and some new design elements that will improve the way it serves coffee, said owner Wes Herman.
"Being the only non-bank drive-thru in Barkley Village has excited a lot of people who work nearby or travel through this area on their way to work," Herman said.
While Herman is expecting a busy morning drive-thru crowd, he also plans on adding more dessert items for the evening customers who are meeting before and after a movie.
Along with the three buildings, several other projects are in the works, including further improving the nearby pond area, road widening and adding a traffic light on the Barkley Boulevard portion that's near the theater. A trail is already in place around the pond, but soon it will have lighting as well as water fountains.
Once phase one is complete, it may be some time before the next phase gets going as Barkley Company begins other projects. At the end of the year the company is expected to apply for permits for a new mixed-use structure in the empty lot on Newmarket Street near Scotty Browns restaurant. The building will have 111 apartments, two levels of parking and retail space.
"Market demand will definitely be a factor on the timing for phase two," Kochman said.
Possibilities for the second phase include a parking garage on the southwest corner of the property and residential units around the pond area, as well as other commercial or office buildings.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.