LYNDEN - A downtown Lynden landmark is once again under local ownership, and they have big plans to make that portion of downtown vibrant again.
On Nov. 1, Lynden Floor owner Greg Neufeldt purchased the Dutch Village Mall at 655 Front St.
According to the Whatcom County Treasurer's office, Neufeldt paid $1.055 million for the property. Jiangong Lei of Tacoma had purchased the property in 2006 for $1.23 million.
Joining the ownership team is Tim Broersma, CEO of Elements Hospitality, and Ben Ryan, Elements' chief financial officer. Elements is a partner company of Lynden Floor and will manage the property.
Known for its 72-foot windmill, the property is also home to the Dutch Village Inn, a gift shop and a Thai restaurant, but it also has several empty retail spaces. The Clair vg Thomas Theatre in the building has been owned by the Lynden Performing Arts Guild since 1998, according to property records.
Elements Hospitality, which renovates hotels and resorts, will move its nearly 40 Lynden employees into some of the empty spaces and begin refurbishing the facility. The plan is to lease two of the other retail spots; each are about 800 square feet, said Broersma.
One of the first things they want to do is get the windmill operating once again, Broersma said.
"We plan to use the windmill as a rallying point," said Broersma. "Lynden needs to find a way to get Lynden people back downtown, and with this and Delft Square, it is a start."
As the company renovates the building and signs tenants, Elements will begin planning for its long-term project of expanding the inn. It has seven rooms, three of which are in the windmill. He noted the operators have done a good job keeping rooms at the inn looking good, but attracting guests is challenging when the rest of the building has so many empty spaces.
Many Lynden residents are viewing this as a fresh start for the Dutch-themed building, which opened in 1987, said Gary Vis, executive director of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce. It's been several years since the windmill has operated, and Vis said the exodus of tenants in recent years has been discouraging.
"We are exceptionally excited to have something fall into place," Vis said.
Broersma, who grew up in Lynden, said one factor in the purchase is to create more space for Elements, a company that has grown substantially since it started in 2005. It began as a division of Lynden Floor and is currently in the process of becoming a separate company.
Elements focuses on renovations of hotels, particularly on the West Coast. Locally the company converted the former Homestead resort into condominiums and has done work at Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine.
He said having around 40 employees in that stretch of downtown will help create a buzz that will lead to more traffic around the restaurants and stores, drawing in local residents. That's the first step to eventually attract more visitors to the area.
The new operators of the Dutch Village Mall plan to get to work right away on refurbishing the property, which Broersma said is a positive step for the nearby Delft Square project. Teri and Matt Treat joined Jeff and Debra McClure taking over that burned-out building earlier this year. The plan is to redevelop that historic building into a 25-room inn with about 10,000 square feet of retail space.
The Delft project at 444 Front St. is in the design phase, with the owners hoping to get started on construction next spring and have the building ready in early 2015.