Old Town development project moving ahead

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 17, 2013 

Granary Walk

The Granary Building on Bellingham's waterfront, built in 1928 as the focal point of a once-booming egg and poultry business in Whatcom County, is just one of many sites being considered for redevelopment by the Port of Bellingham.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - The Public Development Authority's plan for a major development to link downtown, Old Town and a redeveloping central waterfront is moving forward, City Council was told Monday, June 17.

Authority Executive Director Jim Long said five property owners have signed non-binding letters of intent with the Public Development Authority, expressing interest in being part of a large-scale project that could include a hotel, parking garage and mixed-use buildings with shops, offices and residences. Long also envisions a public plaza with a pedestrian crossing over Roeder Avenue and the railroad tracks, leading to the Granary area on the waterfront, which the Port of Bellingham is attempting to develop.

The property owners have parcels adjacent to or near a small city-controlled sliver, known as the Army Street right of way, and another parcel that the city has an option to purchase from the port.

Long asked City Council to approve a similar non-binding letter of intent with the development authority to lay the groundwork for the more complex tasks of finding interested investors and developers and working out legal details with the property owners.

The council quickly agreed to approve the letter on a 6-0 vote, with Seth Fleetwood absent.

Combining the city parcel with the adjacent privately owned parcels creates a potential package for investors and developers to work with, Long said.

The properties lie within the area bounded by Bay, Chestnut and Holly streets and Central Avenue.

Long had originally hoped to assemble a larger parcel with participation from all the landowners in that block, but he said two property owners have said they are not interested, while a third is on the fence.

Long said there is still enough real estate for a viable project with the cooperation of the land owners already tentatively on board.

While figures are approximate at this point, Long said the private parcels, along with the city's piece, could accommodate somewhere between 275,000 and 300,000 square feet of building space, and a garage with 400 to 500 parking spaces. That would mean private investment of $75 million or more.

City Council approved the creation of the Public Development Authority in 2008 as a way of speeding redevelopment of various city-owned real estate parcels. But tangible results have been meager so far, and some council members have expressed doubts about keeping the authority in business.

In December 2012, the council approved budgeting $250,000 for another year of funding for the authority on a 4-3 vote. Some council members indicated they would expect to see some tangible results at the end of 2013 before they approve additional city funds.

SEE THE MAP

For more information and a map of the proposed Army Street Project, go to this bellinghampda.org webpage.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/politics or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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