BELLINGHAM - The Bellingham Maritime Museum has struck a lease deal with the Port of Bellingham that will allow the museum to survive and keep the most important items in its boat collection, museum director Mike Granat said Tuesday, May 7.
Port commissioners unanimously approved a one-year lease for the museum at its present location in a port-owned warehouse at 800 Cornwall Ave. The lease entitles the museum to 6,000 square feet of space in the warehouse at $1,500 per month.
The 6,000-square-foot space is a fraction of the approximately 25,000 square feet that the museum had been using, but Granat said he and his volunteers will be able to make it work. There will be enough space to keep the museum's proudest possessions: a PBR vessel built in Bellingham by United Boat Builders, and a PACV Hovercraft believed to be the only one of its kind still in existence. Both vessels survived river combat during the Vietnam War.
In March 2013, Granat had said the museum might be forced to close because its existing lease with the port covered only 3,000 square feet, and port staffers and commissioners said the museum could not go on using the 25,000 square feet it had gradually encroached upon over several years.
Up to that point, the museum had been paying $750 per month for the 3,000 square feet, on a month-to-month basis. The new lease has a one-year term and a one-year renewal option.
Granat said he has already found new homes for some of the other vessels in the museum's collection, to enable what's left to fit inside they space they are paying for.
When news of the museum's financial difficulties got publicity in March, new donors stepped forward to help, and that enabled the museum to afford the new deal with the port, Granat said. He credited museum board member Tim Douglas, a former Bellingham mayor, with a major role in keeping the museum afloat.
"It's a very positive thing that we've worked on for 10 years," Granat said. "Now we're going into the second chapter."