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Bellingham waterfront could get new condos, retirement living and more

Tour the Granary Building renovation on Bellingham's waterfront

Tour the renovation going on at the historic Granary Building on the Bellingham waterfront, Sept. 29, 2016. Emergency repairs are being made to weather-proof the building before the winter rains are well underway
Up Next
Tour the renovation going on at the historic Granary Building on the Bellingham waterfront, Sept. 29, 2016. Emergency repairs are being made to weather-proof the building before the winter rains are well underway

Waterfront condos, commercial office space and retirement living could be the next additions to the waterfront after Harcourt Developments finishes work on the Granary Building.

Pat Power, director, and Pat Doherty, chairman and founder of Ireland-based Harcourt Developments, were in town Tuesday, Oct. 4, to tell the Port of Bellingham Commission more about their plans for Bellingham’s former industrial waterfront.

A few dozen people attended, many of whom wanted to offer their support for the developer’s idea to potentially turn the Board Mill building into a hotel and conference center. Some also mentioned their support for Harcourt’s general “vision plan” for the rest of the site, which was once home to the Georgia Pacific Corp. pulp and tissue mill.

Power told the audience in the Bellingham Cruise Terminal on Tuesday evening about some of the buildings Harcourt has already renovated in other parts of the world, including the Titanic Quarter in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool, England.

He also spoke in more detail about plans for Bellingham, including the idea for waterfront condos, which would have underground parking and are likely the next project on the slate.

The next waterfront projects by Harcourt Developments could include condominiums, an office building, retirement living, and a hotel and conference center.

The Granary is on track to open for business next summer, and the city will work on a new waterway park and two new roads into the site next year.

“We’ve been working extensively over the last number of days in terms of putting the ducks in a row in order to get ready to go for permits for the next schemes,” Power said.

If all the permitting goes well, work could start on the residential units in 2017.

The developer also envisions a more than 100,000-square-foot commercial office building next to the Granary, which would be the gateway to the site, and just inside that building could be a retirement village, with independent living, assisted living and leisure amenities.

Board Mill

Power also mentioned the developer’s vision for the Board Mill hotel as a project that could move forward soon.

However, more changes to site plans have to be approved by the Port Commission before a hotel could be put in that building because the structure sits in an area of land set aside for Western Washington University.

There was the potential the hotel might be the second project started by the developer, as Western Crossing, WWU’s nonprofit corporation created for the waterfront property, signed off on a plan to move the university’s footprint so the Board Mill would be up for grabs back in May.

But in June, Commissioners Bobby Briscoe and Mike McAuley made it clear they did not want to change the site plan to allow Harcourt to take on that building yet.

Briscoe said during the June 21 meeting, “I have trouble with everything going as fast as it has come up,” and McAuley said that a conference center that would create service employee jobs would not rise to the level of high-quality, high-skill, high-paying jobs that should be brought to the waterfront by policy.

But by Tuesday night, after an audience member asked how the Board Mill project could be expedited, the tone had shifted.

McAuley said he didn’t know that there was really an opportunity to expedite the hotel, but that it would be on the developer’s timetable.

I never wanted to slow these projects down or stop any of this development.

Bobby Briscoe, Port of Bellingham Commissioner

Briscoe said he wanted to clarify what he said in the June meeting.

“I never wanted to slow these projects down or stop any of this development,” Briscoe said. “I have no push-back on what we’re doing. I don’t want to slow anything down. I would like to expedite also.”

Briscoe further clarified after the meeting that he had not heard about the plans to move the Board Mill out of Western’s footprint until that June meeting (even though there had been a story in The Bellingham Herald about it), and voting on that change the same day was what he meant when he said things were moving too quickly. Briscoe also said he does support a hotel going into the building.

Commissioner Dan Robbins, who spoke in favor of the hotel in June, reaffirmed his support for what could be the cornerstone of the development during Tuesday’s meeting.

Robbins asked Power to clarify which projects would be next.

“The four projects I mentioned are next,” Power said, later explaining multiple projects could get started at the same time. “I think the waterfront residential will most likely be the next to advance.”

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil

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