BELLINGHAM - City Council has unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Port of Bellingham to seek redevelopment proposals before they move ahead to demolish the Granary Building on the waterfront.
Port commissioners have yet to approve the demolition, but port staffers have been trying to convince them that the building would be too costly to restore and needs to be torn down to clear the way for waterfront redevelopment.
Architect Dave Christensen was among those who addressed City Council Monday, July 23, to urge that every effort be made to save the building.
"I've been inside the building three times and it's a great building," Christensen said Tuesday, July 24. "It's a very cool building inside."
Christensen, a member of the city's Historic Preservation Commission, noted that all previous studies and reports on waterfront planning and old building reuse have recommended an effort to restore the Granary, although one inventory of the old buildings on port property indicated that the cost to restore the Granary to new uses might be prohibitive.
Christensen thinks those costs have been exaggerated. A restored Granary could be redeveloped on its own, or serve as part of a new building complex that could include Western Washington University buildings or city library, he said.
Chistensen also observed that if the Granary is torn down, no new building of that size could be built in its place because of shoreline regulations that require a setback from the water's edge.
The Granary was built in the 1920s as the focal point of a once-booming egg and poultry business in Whatcom County.
It has been vacant for decades and was the property of Georgia-Pacific Corp. before that company shut down its waterfront pulp and paper operations and handed over its 137 acres of industrial land to the port in 2005.
Former Mayor Dan Pike had advocated preservation of the Granary, but the staff of current Mayor Kelli Linville is now touting a street access plan for the waterfront that would require its demolition.
Christensen said he wants to know what happened to earlier street plans that envisioned a waterfront entry point to the east of the Granary, letting the old building stay in place.
At the last port commission meeting, Commissioner Mike McAuley had the same question. He said he wanted to see a cost analysis of the street access issue before he approved the demolition of the Granary.