Start of construction for big waterfront residential project is delayed. Here’s why

Construction of a major residential waterfront project is being pushed back to next spring and Port of Bellingham commissioners are not happy about it.

Harcourt, the Ireland-based firm that is developing a portion of the waterfront district, asked Port of Bellingham commissioners for an extension to start construction at the Tuesday, Oct. 8, port meeting. The latest timeline has Harcourt starting construction on the three building, 94-unit condominium project near the Whatcom Waterway in May 2020, with occupancy in January 2022.

Previously, the company had hoped to get started this summer, then it was pushed to the end of 2019. While the start date is being delayed, the completion date remains the same.

When the company purchased the 1.7 acres of waterfront property from the port in March 2018, the company said it planned to start construction in July 2018, finishing in October 2019. That original plan called for 70 units, but was later expanded to 94 units.

At the meeting there was a discussion about permit delays as Harcourt worked with the city about proper height requirements. Commissioners appeared frustrated by the delays, with port commissioners Michael Shepard and Ken Bell appearing reluctant to approve an extension.

“It’s unpopular to provide an extension,” Shepard said, noting they haven’t seen much return on investment to this point.

Commissioner Ken Bell requested several times that the Harcourt officials in attendance bring in project managers that are familiar with the city’s permitting process to help move things along, noting that the company’s reputation is being damaged locally by the delays.

Commissioner Bobby Briscoe appeared frustrated with the city permitting process itself, expressing confidence that Harcourt can get the project done.

“But you need to start pushing, please,” Briscoe said to the Harcourt officials at the meeting.

In the end, the commission vote was 3-0 to grant the extension.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.