Big changes are underway on Bellingham’s waterfront, with even more visible work scheduled for 2017.
Emergency repairs to weatherproof the Granary Building before winter’s rains are well underway, a capping project has leveled out the old uneven pulp and tissue mill site into a uniform crushed rock surface, and the city is working on designs for two of the main roads to be built on the site next year.
Additionally, the Port of Bellingham and city are in talks with the waterfront developer and private firms about the potential for district heating and micro-hydro power projects.
Harcourt Developments to visit
On Tuesday, Oct. 4, Ireland-based Harcourt Developments is expected to be in town for an update on the waterfront redevelopment.
The presentation will take place during the Port of Bellingham Commission meeting. The meeting starts at 4 p.m., but the presentation on the waterfront is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. There is a scheduled recess at 5 p.m., but that depends on how quickly the commission moves through the earlier portions of its agenda.
Important to note for anyone who wants to attend: The meeting will be in the Dome Room at Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Ave., instead of the usual meeting place in the conference room at the Port offices on Roeder Avenue.
Crews have been working on in-kind replacements in the Granary Building since June, with crews finding quirks in the old structure along the way.
Take, for example, the first floor window that passersby can’t see because it has been covered for years by ivy cut in the shape of a heart.
The interesting part for me is the revealing of history, and stuff you can build into the (renovated) building.
John Reid, architect working with Harcourt Developments
Architect John Reid, who is working with Harcourt, said he drew inspiration from the hidden window, and used its proportions for additional windows that will be added into the tower of the building.
“The interesting part for me is the revealing of history, and stuff you can build into the (renovated) building,” Reid said while touring the Granary on Thursday, Sept. 29.
When asked if the ivy heart might remain when the building is finished, Reid joked that maybe it could be cut into the shape of a shamrock.
Another piece revealed during repair is the technique used for the wooden tower, which was built with a series of boards starting with larger timber and transitioning to smaller pieces, ending in 2-by-4s, said Louis Parr, construction director.
“It’s an easy, cheap way of building a strong wooden structure,” Parr said.
At the top of the inside of the tower, the original equipment that was used to split grain between silos is still there, and “works like you could use it again tomorrow,” Parr said.
Harcourt Developments will attend the Port of Bellingham Commission meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, in the Dome Room at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Ave.
Along with the tower, the windows, which have been removed and opened for ventilation, are the most visible portions of the work to someone walking by on the street.
Many other less visible repairs have been done: Roofing has been replaced, massive rotten beams were swapped for new Douglas fir to prevent collapse, and dry and wet rot found on the floor in some places was removed and replaced with new boards inside, while rescuing as much wood as they can for reuse in the building, Reid said.
“(The building) is generally in much better shape than people might imagine,” he said.
Over the next two weeks, the work will focus on making the building waterproof and weather-tight before the November rains come, Reid said.
Meanwhile, the last building permit is in the final stages needed before approval by the city of Bellingham, and things appear on course to have the building renovated and open to the public perhaps as soon as summer 2017, Reid said.
A $2 million project to cap an area of the former GP pulp and tissue mill operations with rock is nearly complete.
Where once were mismatched foundations and paths between once-standing buildings, there now is a level gray rock surface from the Granary to the Board Mill building.
RAM Construction was awarded the project in July, and crews have regraded more than 20 acres of the northern portion of the site, known as the Pulp and Tissue Mill area.
Roads and district energy
Bellingham is getting closer to finishing designs for the two main roads into the waterfront site – Granary and Laurel avenues, which are expected to be built in 2017, starting with Granary Avenue, next to the Granary Building.
Sanitary sewer, water, and stormwater, as well as other utilities are being built into the design.
Port and city staff have asked the Commission and City Council about whether they might want to work with private company EnWave to operate a district heat system in the waterfront.
The proposal would require about $2 million from the port and city, maybe even more as the proposal assumed that the Board Mill building would be renovated into a hotel and conference center that would use the heating system, but the Commission rejected the hotel idea earlier this year.
Discussions are expected to continue on the concept.