What became of the businesses that had to leave alley district along State Street?

Downtown businesses find new places after building demolition

After the demolition of several buildings along North State Street last month, many of the businesses have moved to new locations.
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After the demolition of several buildings along North State Street last month, many of the businesses have moved to new locations.

With several buildings demolished last month to make away for a major residential project, many former North State Street businesses are finding new life elsewhere.

The buildings at 903-929 N. State St. were demolished to make way for Stateside, a seven-story residential building that will have 513 beds. Construction is expected to begin this summer with an expected opening of fall 2021.

That meant more than eight businesses or organizations in that part of the Alley District had to find new spaces. While that’s been a challenge given the lack of affordable commercial space, particularly in downtown Bellingham, many have landed in new places in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Bay Renaud and his company, Plantas nativa, recently opened at 315 E. Champion St., near the North Forest Street intersection. Renaud had a difficult time finding empty land that would support his plant nursery and thought he would have to close before being offered the space on Champion Street.

Much of his business involves commercial wetland mitigation work, but he said keeping a retail community nursery is important to him in raising awareness about the value of raising native plants. He noted native plants enhance other aspects of the local environment. Since opening 25 years ago, his company has put in more than 500,000 plants in Whatcom County.

He’s been fortunate to have customers finding him — many are repeat customers that have kept up with the move. The nursery is open noon to 5 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Brian Billings was able to get an earlier start, moving his motorcycle repair business BBRP to 444 W. Horton Road in the Cordata neighborhood last summer. BBRP had been on North State Street for 28 years, so he’s still organizing things he’s collected over the years.

While he misses the North State Street spot, he recognizes that the neighborhood grew up around him.

“Times change, so moving was probably for the better for me,” Billings said.

Here’s an update on where other businesses formerly in this region landed:

The Hub has moved to 110 Ohio St., next to Wander Brewing near Bellingham High School. The non-profit bike repair shop is smaller than the North State Street space, but it offers the same services as before, along with expanded hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday).

Along with repair work, The Hub works with local organizations and low-income families to put quality bikes into the hands of people who need them most, according to its website.

Altility Art Studio has moved into a new building on Blanchard Mountain in Skagit County. Aaron Loveitt said he will be focusing more on commission sculpture and blacksmith work.

Altility was on North State Street for nine years, which Loveitt said was a rewarding experience because he was a part of an art community that he cherished. Coming up from Portland to find a building within his budget to create his artwork changed his life, he said.

For updates on his work, visit the Altility Art Studio website.

Positive Negative, a photo darkroom facility, is in the process of being rebuilt in the basement of Quicksilver Photo Lab at 1417-A Cornwall Ave. Owner Jason Byal said he’s hoping to have it open in the next couple of months. It will have six work stations, and the film processing area will be bigger, he said. Once it is open, Byal plans on having classes and community events.

On its website, the Bryan Wahl Salon said it is opening soon in Ferndale.

The Alternative Library is in a church building at 519 E. Maple St.

Washington Divers moved to Marina Square in Squalicum Harbor. It’s a smaller space, but much of what it offered before is still in place. For details, call 360-676-8029.

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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.