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Two Bellingham waterfront buildings due for demolition

The digester building at the former Georgia-Pacific West Inc. site is pictured on Tuesday, June 16, in Bellingham, Washington. It will be demolished by the end of 2015 to make way for waterfront redevelopment.
The digester building at the former Georgia-Pacific West Inc. site is pictured on Tuesday, June 16, in Bellingham, Washington. It will be demolished by the end of 2015 to make way for waterfront redevelopment. The Bellingham Herald

Two of the few remaining buildings from the former waterfront Georgia-Pacific Corp. pulp and tissue mill are set to be demolished by the end of the year.

Rhine Demolition of Tacoma will take down the tall, narrow red brick structure known as the digester building and the bark and chipper building to the southwest, with its four white silos.

When the site was still operational, the two buildings were used in tandem: A chipper would cut logs into wood chips that were then loaded into massive digester tanks to cook in steam and acid and be converted into pulp, which was later used to make paper products, according to port documents.

The Port of Bellingham Commission awarded the roughly $1.1 million contract – $998,518 plus a $100,000 contingency – for the project during its regular meeting Tuesday, June 16. A brownfield grant should cover the removal of the digester building for about $374,000 of the cost.

Senior Project Engineer Adam Fulton told the commission that the two buildings had been evaluated, and it was unlikely they had potential to be redeveloped. They also stand in the way of future parks and roads described in a master plan for the property.

The contract says the buildings need to come down within 200 days, or by the end of January 2016, but the plan is for them to be down some time this year.

Rhine was the lowest of seven bids, the largest of which was $3.2 million. Commissioner Dan Robbins asked about the discrepancy.

“Honestly, if it was any other type of project, I’d be very alarmed about that spread in the bids,” Fulton said. “But in a demolition bid, it’s very tricky business, on how you’re taking it down, from explosives to chiseling it down, to what kind of price you’re getting on the commodities you’re able to recycle.”

As with the other demolitions that have already taken place on the waterfront, the plan is to recycle as many of the materials in the buildings as possible. By weight, 95 percent of the previous buildings were recycled, Fulton said.

The majority of the recycled materials are steel, bricks and concrete. The steel is sold to be melted down, and the bricks and concrete are broken down and stockpiled on site to be used as fill during later development.

A spherical steel container that stands just next to the digester building is scheduled to be protected or moved under the current contract. The port also plans to keep a bottom and top of one of the digester tanks, to preserve some of the history, rather than spend $2 million to keep a whole tank, Fulton said.

Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-715-2274 or samantha.wohlfeil@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog and follow her on Twitter at @BhamPolitics.

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