Plans submitted for major retail tenant in Ferndale

A major retail project is making its way to Ferndale.

Plans were submitted to build a retail development of around 120,000 square feet at 5530 Nordic Way, property which is near the Ferndale Grocery Outlet and Interstate 5.

The applicant is Pacland, a consultant company that has worked with a variety of retailers, including several projects with Walmart in Washington, Oregon and California. It also helped coordinate construction of the nearby Chase Bank and Jack in the Box businesses.

No tenant was named in the project. It was identified only as Nordic Way Center, according to a news release from Ferndale.

Jeff Chambers, a principal owner of Pacland working out of the Seattle office, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The Walmart media department did not respond to an email about the proposed project.

The development must comply with a number of requirements before it can be approved, including environmental impact rules and city design standards. It would need to go through the EAGLE Program for retail development that Ferndale passed in 2008. The goal is for retailers to meet certain environmental, social and economic objectives, according to the city’s news release.

If the plans result in a major retailer, it would go a long way in helping Ferndale keep its retail dollars in the community rather than those being sent to Bellingham, said Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen.

“We’d like to see a large store come in; it would be a way to keep the sales tax (revenue) in Ferndale,” Jensen said.

If the unnamed retailer is indeed Walmart, it would be a new step in what has been a long history of the company trying to expand into a bigger store in Whatcom County. After hearing about plans by Walmart to turn its Bellingham location into a superstore, the Bellingham City Council imposed a big-box retail ban in February 2007. Along with a prohibition of any new stores larger than 90,000 square feet, the ban forbid existing stores at the limit from expanding.

In 2010, the City Council relaxed the restrictions, exempting “membership stores,” a move urged by then-Mayor Dan Pike. The move paved the way for the possibility of a new Costco, as long as the project would meet certain environmentally friendly construction standards, according to media reports in 2010. Superstores like a Walmart Supercenter remain banned.

Since that time Costco has worked on plans to build a new store near the Bakerview Fred Meyer. It is currently completing the building permit process and has already done land preparation work.

Since the ban halted Walmart’s plans in Bellingham, rumors began to spread that it would leave the city and looking at a variety of places to relocate, including Ferndale or the Lummi Reservation.

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville said she doesn’t know if Walmart is leaving Bellingham but said that’s been the talk. If it is the case, she said it would be a big disappointment to lose an existing business of that size. Not only would it be a significant drain on existing tax revenue, but it would mean the loss of jobs within the city limits.

Linville said she raised the issue of making changes to the ban to a couple of City Council members but didn’t think there was much support to take it further than that. As in 2010, the City Council would be the group that would need to make any changes.

Reach Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BhamHeraldBiz and on Facebook at BellinghamHeraldBusiness.