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Work moves forward on historic building in downtown Lynden

Forefront Ventures LLC have filed the applications to remodel the former Delft Square building, renamed Waples Mercantile Building, at 444 Front St. in Lynden.
Forefront Ventures LLC have filed the applications to remodel the former Delft Square building, renamed Waples Mercantile Building, at 444 Front St. in Lynden. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Local developers have filed building permit applications to renovate a key downtown Lynden building.

Forefront Ventures LLC filed the applications with the city earlier this week to remodel the former Delft Square building at 444 Front St. The building is being renamed the Waples Mercantile Building. The name change is to honor William H. “Billy” Waples, an extraordinary entrepreneur who for decades operated the nationally known Lynden Department Store in the building, said Teri Treat, one of the partners in the project.

The developers plan to refurbish the structure into a mixed-use building with the centerpiece being The Inn at Lynden. The inn will have 35 rooms and be owned by those redeveloping the of the building, Teri and Matt Treat. and Jeff and Debra McClure. The building will also have 9,500 square feet of retail space available, which the owners hope will have a restaurant or brewery as a tenant, Teri Treat said.

Dawson Construction is the general contractor of the project designed by RMC Architects. With construction expected to start soon, the owners are aiming for an October 2015 completion date.

The submission of building permits is a key step in what has been a long process of restoring the building that was nearly destroyed by fire in June 2008. The remodeling project is important not just for the building itself, but for downtown Lynden, said Gary Vis, executive director of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce.

“(This project) changes the way visitors and residents look at downtown,” Vis said, adding that restoring the building would help fill some of the nearby vacant spaces.

The lodging component is also important, Vis said, noting that the business and leisure travel market is being underserved in that part of the county.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, so more work is involved in restoring the building than typical projects, said Jeff McClure. That includes bringing in material similar to what was originally used, when possible, and restoring cornices and other items that maintain the character of the building.

While the inside of the building was damaged by the fire, much of the exterior is in good shape. That means much of the remodeling will involve putting in new electrical systems and other interior conveniences.

“It will be a very modern building in a historical context,” McClure said.

McClure said he doesn’t expect many disruptions during construction, except for a downtown few parking spaces that could be blocked off at times.

“It’s been a lot of work getting to this point, but I have a terrific interest in downtowns like Lynden,” McClure said. “It’s just fun to be a part of this downtown.”

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