Local

Construction begins on long-awaited medical center

A rendering of the first phase of Squalicum Creek Medical Center, which is being built near Cornwall Park. The first phase of the building will be home to Plastic Surgery Bellingham. Work on the project began last week and is expected to be ready around September 2017.
A rendering of the first phase of Squalicum Creek Medical Center, which is being built near Cornwall Park. The first phase of the building will be home to Plastic Surgery Bellingham. Work on the project began last week and is expected to be ready around September 2017. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The bankruptcy of Lehman Bros. and the global financial meltdown of 2008 put many local construction projects on hold, but not many were delayed as long as the Squalicum Creek Medical Center.

Groundbreaking on the project finally took place last week at Birchwood Avenue and Squalicum Parkway, near Cornwall Park.

The first phase will be a 7,800-square-foot building and will be home to Plastic Surgery Bellingham when it is completed around September 2017. Eventually the center will have about 20,000 square feet of space and be home to other tenants.

Construction was supposed to have started the weekend after Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy, but a major investor also declared bankruptcy, putting the project on hold. Dr. Tim Whitney of Plastic Surgery Bellingham said if the project had started two months earlier, the building would have been completed.

At the time it looked like much of the problem was caused by the housing bubble, which hurt residential lending.

While housing went down, we thought that commercial lending would be OK.

Dr. Tim Whitney, Plastic Surgery Bellingham

“While housing went down, we thought that commercial lending would be OK,” Whitney said.

Instead, the project entered a surreal world where investors showed interest, but a deal would become impossible to close. Many were interested in buying the structure once it was built, but investors didn’t want to put out money up-front in that economic climate.

Financial institutions also were scared off by the idea that part of the building would be built on spec with no other confirmed tenants.

After a series of “just about there” moments, financing from a bank finally was approved.

Whitney and Dr. Jim Blackburn credit Pete Dawson of Dawson Construction as well as the staff at the practice for helping them find financing while they ran their practice. Architect David Christensen also was helpful in getting through the regulations, Whitney and Blackburn said.

Ironically the practice did well after the global financial meltdown, offering reconstructive and cosmetic surgery services. The new building will allow the practice to recruit one or two more surgeons in the next five years and offer some new services, including non-surgical options.

As for the rest of the building, Whitney and Blackburn believe it will attract interest from other medical practices once the first phase is close to completion. Whitney said the location is one of the few available near the hospital.

The architect on the project is Christensen, while Dawson Construction is the general contractor.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

  Comments