Business

Seattle environmental firm buys downtown Bellingham building, moving staff to town

The Blackburn Office building at 203 W. Chestnut St. in Bellingham was sold to Natural Systems Design, which will remodel the building and use two of the floors for office space.
The Blackburn Office building at 203 W. Chestnut St. in Bellingham was sold to Natural Systems Design, which will remodel the building and use two of the floors for office space. The Bellingham Herald

An environmental engineering firm based in Seattle will expand its Bellingham presence after purchasing the former Blackburn Office Equipment building.

Natural Systems Design purchased the building from the Grunhurd family, with the deal closing on April 1. The purchase price was $1.5 million, according to documents filed at the Whatcom County Treasurer office.

The Blackburn Office Furnishing & Design company has moved to 4071 Hannegan Road, with Shane Grunhurd taking over for his dad, Randy, who is retiring.

Natural Systems Design will spend about six months renovating the building before moving in, said Leif Embertson, principal river engineer for the company. The firm currently has an office on Flora Street with about 10 employees.

When the Blackburn building is ready those employees will move in, along with about five more people from the Seattle office. The building has enough space for about 25 people on the second and third floors and the company plans to have the first floor available for lease.

The environmental firm works on a variety of restoration work, including rivers. That includes several projects on the Nooksack River. Along with habitat restoration they also do infrastructure planning to assess flood and erosion risk, Embertson said in an email.

Embertson said a factor in purchasing the building was finding a long-term home for the business. It will always have a presence in Seattle, but with the rising cost of living and commercial rents in that area they wanted an alternative, choosing Bellingham to add some jobs.

“We wanted to offer employees another option to both work, play and support a family,” Embertson said. “Doing what we do we have pretty low employee turnover and felt like offering this benefit would help continue that trend.”

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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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