Demolition progress made as future of key downtown Bellingham building is considered

While it’s been slow going, progress is being made on the demolition of a longtime downtown building.

On Friday, Oct. 11, Boss Construction removed a grain hopper in the upper portion of the Hohl Feed & Seed building on Railroad Avenue. It’s one of the first major pieces to be removed from the building that was destroyed by a fire in February.

Demolition began at the end of August and is slow and deliberate. That’s because asbestos was found in a number of locations in the building, according to a permit filed with the Northwest Clean Air Agency.

What the future holds for that spot, as well as the nearby damaged buildings from a July fire, has not been announced by the several owners of the property. Kurt Nabbefeld, development services manager for the city, said one of the owners expressed interest in learning what the community wanted to see at that site.

The owners will have a wide range of possibilities for redeveloping the site if that’s the route they choose. Since it is in the commercial core of the downtown district, there are no density or height restrictions, Nabbefeld said. Any new building would have to meet downtown design guidelines and that surrounding building context is considered. The public will also have a chance to comment on project proposals.

“However we also want to ensure we have creative and new architecture in our city. There is flexibility on how buildings are designed as long as the design guideline or intent of the guideline in the code is met,” Nabbefeld said in an email to The Bellingham Herald

Alice Clark of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership is confident the site will be redeveloped.

“Many of us were big fans of the businesses that were lost in the fire and we would love to see them return — perhaps on the street level of a mixed-use building that could incorporate retail and commercial uses as well as housing,” Clark said in an email to The Herald.

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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.