BELLINGHAM - A partnership between the city and private property owners will continue after one landowner dropped out of the effort to find a way to develop about two acres on the edge of downtown, by the waterfront.
The City Council, meeting Monday afternoon, July 21, as the Committee of the Whole, voted 7-0 to continue working with the remaining five private property owners. The full council was scheduled to cast a final vote Monday night.
The properties owned by Thornberg Trust along Bay Street, between Chestnut and Holly streets, had been shown in a conceptual plan to anchor the entire 2.5-acre project site with a large hotel. The boundaries of the Bellingham Public Development Authority's Army Street Project are Chestnut and Holly, and Bay and Central Avenue.
The other property owners remain enthusiastic about the project, said Jim Long, executive director of the authority.
"They've already responded, and they think it's premature (to withdraw) - 'Let's wait until we have the facts,'" Long told the council on July 7.
The studies are being funded with a portion of the $550,000 the council appropriated to the authority for 2014. Mayor Kelli Linville has not put her support behind the project, in part because the property owners in this partnership are not required to invest their own money yet.
Environmental and soil surveys so far have shown no problems at the site, council member Michael Lilliquist said at the July 7 meeting. Market research for the project should be completed by October, Long has said.
The development hasn't been drawn up in detail, but Long has said the site could accommodate an underground parking garage, hotel, residences, commercial and office space, and a pedestrian plaza with a walkway to the waterfront near the Granary Building.
The properties are seen as an important link between the downtown and the to-be-developed waterfront. The thought behind the public-private partnership is that all the properties taken together would be more attractive to developers.
The market study could show whether the loss of the hotel on the Thornberg properties would harm the Army Street Project's marketability. That will depend on whether the market would call for a 130-foot building, because a building that tall is only allowed on the Thornberg property, Long said.
The Thornberg Trust could rejoin the partnership if the market study is favorable, Long said.
SEE THE MAP
For more information and a map of the proposed Army Street Project, go to this bellinghampda.org webpage.