LYNDEN - A new ownership group is moving forward with plans to redevelop the historic Delft Square building into a 25-room inn with 10,000 square feet of retail space.
Teri and Matt Treat recently purchased ownership shares of the building and have joined Jeff and Debra McClure to form ForeFront Ventures, LLC to begin redesigning the downtown building at 444 Front St.
Delft Square has been without a tenant since it was nearly destroyed by a fire in June 2008.
The first order of business is to come up with a design plan for the building and get permit approval for remodeling. Teri Treat said they hope to get started on construction around April 2014 and have the building ready by early 2015. Bellingham-based Dawson Construction is the general contractor.
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"For us, this project has great small-town appeal and Lynden has the structural components to make this work," Teri Treat said. "The main thing for me is having the opportunity to work with the McClures, who are personal friends and professional associates, on a building where we have the same vision."
Jeff McClure is a partner at Bellingham's RMC Architects and has designed a variety of buildings in Whatcom County. The Treats own and manage a variety of properties in Whatcom County.
The group plans to remodel the inn and retail space to reflect some of the farming aspects of Lynden. Along with making agriculture a theme of the building itself, they are considering focusing on a retail tenant that would create a local farmers market/food court concept.
"We see the business and leisure travel market in north Whatcom County as under-served and the area's rich agricultural heritage as under-appreciated," Teri Treat said.
Refurbishing the building is a big deal for the community, both economically and in terms of morale, said Gary Vis, executive director of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce. It's one of the first buildings many visitors see in downtown Lynden and having a burned-out shell of the building has an impact on the rest of the area.
"This (announcement) puts that seed of hope in everybody in this community," Vis said. "It's an historical building that's meant a lot to people over the years."
If the group is successful at creating an inn, it will help address a demand for accommodations within Lynden, Vis said.
"I had three calls last week from people who couldn't find a place to stay in Lynden," he said.
Delft Square was built in 1909 and has served a variety of businesses over the years, including the nationally known Lynden Department Store.
Several efforts were made to restore the building after a four-alarm blaze gutted the building five years ago. Developer Jeff Johnson partnered with Jeff McClure and Pete Dawson of Dawson Construction to purchase the building in November 2008 for $210,000.
In 2011 the Lynden City Council looked into the possibility of buying the 42,900-square-foot building, but that was not finalized.
In 2012 Lynden residents voted down a $9.5 million bond to renovate the building to house a new YMCA.