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Posted on: September 7, 2012

Work Underway to Find Waterfront Developer: Granary Site Included in First Phase

As the Port of Bellingham and City of Bellingham move ahead on waterfront redevelopment planning, work is underway to begin soliciting developers to launch the project. In addition to the Downtown waterfront area already targeted for the first development phase, the Granary Building also will be included in the first offering by the Port of Bellingham later this year.

Earlier this year, the port had proposed demolishing the Granary Building due to concerns about the feasibility of redevelopment without a public subsidy and because the building’s location could impact the highest performing road alignment option for Waterfront District access.

In response to community requests, the Port of Bellingham’s Board of Commissioners on August 21, 2012, directed port staff to include the Granary Building in the first offering to developers. Rather than being marketed as a stand-alone project, the port will include the Granary Building along with a section of land near the head of the Whatcom Waterway, adjacent to Downtown Bellingham.

This will allow the port to test market receptivity to retention and redevelopment of the Granary Building. Although the details of the developer solicitation still are being written, port officials say they will be seeking a lead developer for the entire first phase and that developer could form partnerships with others for portions of the project, such as the Granary.

“While this is not a guarantee that the Granary will be redeveloped, it does allow developers to evaluate it and determine if they can make the renovation pencil out,” Port Commission President Scott Walker said. “The port is not interested in subsidizing the building or waiting years to determine its outcome. But we are willing to offer it to developers to find out if they are interested in investing in the Granary.”

The goal is to issue the developer solicitation in November or December, said Port Business Development Director Lydia Bennett. The port is working with Seattle-based Heartland, LLC, a real estate advisory firm based in Seattle with extensive public/private partnership expertise. The objective of the developer solicitation is attract a high quality developer(s), investors and businesses to the Bellingham waterfront in a way that meets project economic goals and aligns with the draft Waterfront Subarea Plan.

Bennett said she envisions a developer solicitation that offers the Granary site as an option with the Downtown waterfront portion of the development site, but does not require its preservation. There are differing opinions about the feasibility and cost of renovation and this approach will allow the development market to answer the financial feasibility question, she said.

“We believe our project is coming to the marketplace at a good time,” Bennett said. “There is strong awareness of and interest in the Waterfront District and we are working closely with the city and Heartland to attract the highest quality development team to carry our project forward.”

Port and city waterfront redevelopment teams will submit the draft subarea plan and related documents by the end of the year, which will begin a review process with city staff, then the Planning Commission and, ultimately, the Port Commission and City Council. Both governments agreed that the final plan, especially the infrastructure design, would be improved by working with a developer who could bring private equity and specific development concepts to the process.

For More Information:
Carolyn Casey: 360-676-2500
carolync@portofbellingham.com

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