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What’s the plan for the Armory building? Officials to introduce project on Monday

WWU Foundation sells landmark Bellingham Armory building

The Western Washington University Foundation has sold the landmark Armory building, which sits on 1.3 acres and overlooks Bellingham Bay, to a pair of developers who grew up here.
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The Western Washington University Foundation has sold the landmark Armory building, which sits on 1.3 acres and overlooks Bellingham Bay, to a pair of developers who grew up here.

Developers are leaning toward creating several different uses for the large, empty Armory building near Western Washington University.

A public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, April 8, at the Armory building, 525 N. State St., to introduce the renovation and construction project. Officials will be on hand to answer questions and take comments on the project.

The 1.3 acre property was purchased last year by Curt O’Connor and Pete Dawson from the Western Washington University Foundation for $1.5 million.

According to the public meeting notice, the 60,000-square-foot building would undergo an extensive interior renovation while the exterior would be retained with just a few minor changes to the Chuckanut sandstone facade.

The developers are also planning to build a three-story residential building and parking on the property south of the Armory building.

Possible plans for inside the armory building include offices, small “maker spaces,” a larger manufacturing area, an event area, storage spots and residential units. A new parking garage level will be added within the building, according to the public meeting notice.

The building, with its sweeping views of Bellingham Bay, was built by the Washington National Guard in 1910, according to The Bellingham Herald archives. It was used by the National Guard and Army Reserve until 1953. In November 1953 the main floor of the building became home to a roller skating rink called Rolladium, which operated until 1989 when it was closed because of water damage.

Western purchased the property from the state in 1972 for $1. After the rink closed it was used to house furniture as well as sets and costumes for the university’s theater department.

The owners of the building have strong local ties to the community. Dawson is president of Bellingham-based Dawson Construction, which has done a number of local building restoration projects. Examples of the recent projects include the Waples Mercantile Building in Lynden and Whatcom Middle School, both of which were nearly destroyed by fires. The company recently completed the new Sehome High School ahead of schedule.

O’Connor owns the real estate investment firm Nor Pac Equities Development Inc. in Seattle. He grew up in Bellingham and said in a June interview that he remembers hanging out at the rink with friends.

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The Armory building on South State Street in Bellingham is constructed of local Chuckanut sandstone and was built in 1910 by the Washington National Guard as a military training station. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

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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