People could soon see the first redevelopment along the waterfront as Harcourt Developments continues to push ahead with plans to remodel the Granary Building.
Architect John Reid of Robinson McIlwaine (RMI) Architects has been working with the city to go over the preliminary design for the building.
Reid’s imagining of the renovation would open up the ground floor of the building, located at West Chestnut Street and Central Avenue, for store, restaurant and cafe space. Public viewpoints are incorporated so anyone could walk through the new space and get a view of the waterfront.
A proposed extension to the building would be built with a heavy timber structure in the Pacific Northwest style of architecture, Reid said.
The upper floors would be used for office space and other commercial use.
A small group met with Reid Thursday night, Nov. 5, in Maritime Heritage Park’s environmental education building for a required neighborhood meeting to talk about the plan.
“I think the idea of the red roof to match the Old City Hall is very-well liked,” Reid said, referring to his plan to match the roof of the Granary with the now-Whatcom Museum building in the city’s skyline. “The idea of keeping the ivy on the Roeder Avenue elevation was well-liked.”
Harcourt Developments is also in talks with the Port of Bellingham about the potential to remodel the Board Mill building as possibly a hotel.
Though it was a small group of people, Reid said everyone seemed to love the plan and had questions about the timeline and access around the building.
“They were very keen to see when we’d be starting,” Reid said. “I think 10 years is a long time to be waiting for something.”
The meeting followed a successful sit-down with the city’s Design Review Board, which took a look at the preliminary sketches on Oct. 20.
The board received the presentation well, Reid said, only asking for a few minor changes, such as making sure a garbage storage area is less visible inside the building.
“Generally I think the board didn’t really have any significant changes, they really liked the design of the building,” said Kurt Nabbefeld, senior planner with the city.
The board recommended approval of the design, Nabbefeld said.
Before the design review meeting, staff commented in a letter that they would need to talk about the pedestrian accessibility of the site.
“The Granary is a tough one, because it’s the first building to really get going,” Nabbefeld said. “Public works is working with those folks to work on the roadways in that area.”
The road in front of the building on the waterfront that for now is an extension of Central Avenue will become Granary Boulevard. The city also is working on expanding pedestrian trails along the entire waterfront.
City code doesn’t require added parking for existing buildings, Nabbefeld said, but because the developer plans to expand the Granary, some additional parking will be required.
For now, there are plans for interim parking on the waterfront that the city and developer are working on together, he said.
“We’re really excited,” Nabbefeld said. “It’s great to see you’re going to see some additional progress.”
Now that the neighborhood and design review meetings have happened, Reid and Harcourt can incorporate the guidance they received into their plan and prepare to submit it for land use review, which includes design review, and for a shoreline permit, Nabbefeld said.
“We are good to go,” Reid said. “The runway is clear now to lodge the permits, which we hope would be this month.”
Once those processes happen, including a public comment period, the city will draft recommendations and decisions on whether to approve the permits. At the same time all that is going on, the developer could apply for a building permit.
The hope is to start construction next year as soon as possible, Reid said.
In the meantime, Harcourt is also in talks with the Port of Bellingham about the potential to remodel the Board Mill building as possibly a hotel, Reid said.
The building is outside of the area the developer has an agreement with the port to develop but is in the middle of the former G-P site.
“The developer has a great interest in remodeling existing buildings,” Reid said. “We’re thinking the Granary and the Board Mill will be the bookends of the initial development.”
Harcourt has remodeled similar industrial buildings into hotels, such as the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool, England.
Reid hinted that the overall vision for the waterfront can’t be released yet, but people may be able to see it as soon as early next year.
“I think, when it is appropriate, it will electrify Bellingham,” Reid said. “I think that drawing will be hugely popular with the community.”