Port will review developers' plans for Bellingham waterfront

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 15, 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 Port of Bellingham has received eight proposals from developers who want to be involved in the first phase of a long-awaited waterfront renaissance on dormant industrial land south of Roeder Avenue.

The proposals are focused on a 10.8-acre parcel in and around the Granary Building - a small slice of the 237 waterfront acres controlled by the port and the city. Most of those 237 acres once were home to Georgia-Pacific Corp. pulp, chemical and tissue operations that shut down in 2007.

The details of developers' proposals should be available by Tuesday, July 16, when port commissioners will discuss them at their regular 3 p.m. meeting. The reviewing of those proposals, and the selection of developers to move ahead with building projects, is expected to take months.

Port Executive Director Rob Fix said he was pleased with the level of interest that developers have shown.

"We know this is just the beginning of a conversation with developers because we anticipate proposals will continue to be shaped and refined as we move forward," Fix said in a prepared statement. "Knowing we have strong interest in developing the waterfront district is a great first step toward completing a transaction with the final developers. That step is many months in the future."

The response included three proposals for re-use of the Granary Building, which had been on the port's chopping block until local residents drummed up support for trying to save it.

Two of the Granary proposals were from local companies and one was from a Canadian company. Possible uses for the building could include a public market, other shops, offices, restaurants and housing.

The port also reported receiving three proposals from firms seeking the role of master developer for the entire 10.8 acre area that is scheduled to be developed first. These developers proposed a variety of uses, including retail, office, housing, restaurants and hotels.

They include one local developer, one international developer and one regional developer, port spokeswoman Carolyn Casey said.

The port also got one letter of interest from a developer offering to work with the chosen master developer to build a hotel. Another would-be partner is interested in housing construction.

At the July 16 Port Commission meeting, Casey said port staffers and commissioners will discuss how they want to review these proposals and select a preferred developer or developers for the next phase: negotiation of actual contracts for sale or lease of public property to be redeveloped.

Casey said port staffers are asking commissioners to consider a preliminary review phase of all proposals that will involve staff from both the port and the city of Bellingham. Finalists selected would then get more extensive interviews in a process that also would include input from Western Washington University and Whatcom County.

WWU has expressed interest in establishing a community learning center in the area for a wide range of educational uses inside space it could rent from a private developer.

GO TO A MEETING

Bellingham waterfront redevelopment will be the focus of three upcoming meetings:

• Monday, July 15: At 1 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, the City Council's waterfront committee will get an overview of waterfront planning and zoning documents. The meeting also will be available live on BTV10 and on the city website, cob.org.

• Tuesday, July 16: At 3 p.m. at Port of Bellingham headquarters, 1801 Roeder Ave., port commissioners get an overview of developer proposals for 10 acres of waterfront property.

• Wednesday, July 17: From noon to 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the City Hall lobby, city and port staff will host a waterfront information fair.

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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