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Before the buildings go up, summer fun is planned on Bellingham’s waterfront

Here’s what’s happening on Bellingham’s waterfront

The Port of Bellingham and Harcourt, an Ireland-based developer, have completed several projects on the 137 acres of waterfront property. The port took ownership of the Georgia-Pacific land in 2005 in exchange for taking on its environmental cleanup.
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The Port of Bellingham and Harcourt, an Ireland-based developer, have completed several projects on the 137 acres of waterfront property. The port took ownership of the Georgia-Pacific land in 2005 in exchange for taking on its environmental cleanup.

The Port of Bellingham and a developer are gearing up for a variety of projects for the waterfront district, including some construction work that could get going in the second half of the year.

Here’s an update on what’s happening on the former Georgia-Pacific property:

Granary Building: The pursuit is on for new tenants

Harcourt, the Ireland-based developer that refurbished the 57,000-square-foot Granary Building, signed a yoga studio as its first tenant, but more tenants are expected to sign in the coming months.

The Yoga Collective is planning for an early March opening on the third floor of the building, according to its website.

The developer has hired a local agent to handle the leasing the six floors: Chris Erdmann, co-founder and managing broker at Bellwether Commercial Real Estate will be the leasing agent.

Along with the yoga studio, a beauty salon is finalizing plans to take the tower portion of the building.

Retail space on the first floor and in the soon-to-be completed expansion known as The Annex is generating plenty of interest, Erdmann said. With plenty of windows and sweeping views of the bay, The Annex is expected to be home to a restaurant. Erdmann said in the past few weeks he has heard from several establishments between Vancouver, B.C., to Seattle, with two showing strong interest. There have also been local restaurant owners showing interest in adding a location.

WaypointPark3.jpg
A couple walk together at Waypoint Park on Bellingham’s waterfront last summer. The Port plans community events and art installations there this summer. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

In the first floor of the original building, Erdmann said he’s receiving interest from a variety of retail marketplace businesses, including wineries and food service. It’s also had a fair bit of interest from outdoor recreation companies that sell and rent paddle boards, kayaks and bikes.

Erdmann said he expects some of the smaller vendors to sign leases and start filling spaces this spring. The higher-end restaurants will take more time as tenant improvements typically take about six months to complete.

Several temporary activities on tap

It’s going to take years for the waterfront district to develop, so the Port of Bellingham is planning to create several temporary uses for the public to enjoy.

With the first section of Granary Avenue open, there’s a large graveled area that is expected to eventually be home to buildings and parks. In the meantime, the port is working on designs for a walking trail, a bicycle trail and a bike “pump track,” consisting of banked turns similar to the one recently constructed at Whatcom Falls Park. The port is aiming to have these ready early this summer, said Brian Gouran, director of environmental programs for the agency.

Other activities, including community events and art installations, could also come together fairly quickly, Gouran said in an email.

Residential: Construction could start this summer

The first three residential buildings for the waterfront district are currently in the permitting stage, with construction expected to begin in the second half of the year, said Patrick Power, group property director for Harcourt. Power gave a presentation to the Bellingham City Council recently.

The current shape of the project calls for 94 condominium units, underground parking and commercial space. The condos are going in along the Whatcom Waterway, near Waypoint Park.

Office building: Still in development

Power said they are still working on what the building will look like, but at this point they are aiming for 150,000 square feet and 300 parking spaces. Harcourt is looking at some ideas to create a maritime look to the building, which would go in across the street from the Granary Building.

He said they expect to file for permits in the second half of 2019.

Hotel: Big conference center pondered

During the city council presentation, Power provided some details about the Board Mill Hotel, which would go into the former pulp mill building. They are looking at having 185 hotel rooms and an 800-person conference center.

Several things have to happen before construction would begin, including the approval of plan changes for the area and Harcourt purchasing the property. If those things happen in an expected timeline, Power believes they would go in for permits in early 2020.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.

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