Changes at the top coming for Barkley development company

Stowe Talbot is the new head of day-to-day operations at Barkley Co., which manages the buildings at Barkley Village in Bellingham.
Stowe Talbot is the new head of day-to-day operations at Barkley Co., which manages the buildings at Barkley Village in Bellingham.

Barkley Co. will be going through a leadership transition, but it plans to keep its slow, steady pace developing the 220 acres it owns.

Jeff Kochman, who has led the company for 25 years, is stepping down as president and CEO on July 31. Taking over is Stowe Talbot, who will move from a big-picture role in the company to handle the day-to-day operations.

Talbot is the third generation of his family to oversee development of the Barkley area; the Talbots also own Bellingham Cold Storage. As Talbot takes over the daily operations at Barkley, he plans on taking a smaller role at Bellingham Cold Storage, where he handled strategic planning for the facility.

700,000 square footage of buildings Barkley Co. leases in the area, which is about the size of Bellis Fair

23 number of buildings operated by Barkley Co.

75 number of commercial tenants.

Kochman was hired in 1991 to develop some of the Barkley property and has had a hand in what is there today, including the Haggen grocery store, Regal movie theater and Barkley Village. In total, the area has about 700,000 square feet of retail space, which is about the size of Bellis Fair.

“It’s been a good 25 years, and I think Barkley has a good team in place going forward,” Kochman said.

Kochman plans to focus on his own business activities and real estate portfolio while remaining active in the Bellingham business community. He is on the board of business groups and other organizations, including the NW Innovation Resource Center, Whatcom Business Alliance and Bellingham Technical College Foundation.

“Jeff has been crucial to this company and is a very large part of the amazing success we’ve had,” Talbot said.

The Talbot family purchased the property in the mid-1970s with the hope of expanding Bellingham Cold Storage. The city decided the area wasn’t suited for industrial development, so the family came up with its urban village design, which has been decades in the making.

Kochman said getting the Barkley Haggen store and the nearby Barkley Village was a great experience for him. He learned much about the process from those involved in the project, including Jim Talbot, Don Haggen and Rick Haggen.

“I did a lot of listening,” Kochman said.

The next new project at Barkley is expected to be housing, probably more apartments.

With the completion of the movie theater and the 112-unit Cornerstone apartment building two years ago, the Barkley area has been in a relatively quiet period of development. Talbot said they are ready to do more but are spending time finding the right partner, something they have done with past projects.

“We’re slow-going; we only have so much money to put into a project,” he said.

The next new project at Barkley is expected to be residential, probably more apartments, but it could also be condominiums.

Several factors have Barkley Co. leaning toward residential, Talbot said: The area needs more full-time residents as it strives to mature as an urban village; the residential market is tight in Bellingham; and the city is enthusiastic about adding housing. Long term, he sees multifamily buildings, like apartments, in the dense area of Barkley, with some single-family homes farther out.

The Talbot family owns property that stretches out from Barkley to Mount Baker Highway and to the east.

In the area around the movie theater, the plan continues to be adding commercial and residential buildings. To accomplish that, Talbot said a parking garage needs to be built on the south side of the movie theater before buildings can be constructed in the current parking areas.

For its current 75 commercial tenants, it’s been relatively stable in recent years, but some changes have been afoot. With Sterling Insurance closing its Bellingham office earlier this year, Barkley has been filling the office space with a variety of tenants, including Regus and Big Fresh media.

In retail, Mod Pizza plans to go into the former Quiznos space, and Talbot said they are finalizing plans for another restaurant. He said they continue to look for ways to add eateries in the area and said a brewpub would be a good fit.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz