Irish architect John Reid has come all the way to Bellingham, and believes he has found the city's pot of gold.
“It's almost a piece of treasure to find this kind of thing,” he says.
That treasure comes in the form of an old granary building on the Bellingham's waterfront. Long abandoned, it is now the focal point for waterfront redevelopment.
“It's hard not to call this the gateway to the San Juan Islands,” says Reid.
With sweeping views of the San Juans and Bellingham Bay, Reid and Harcourt Developments envision tech companies moving into the granary building, along with retail, even a brew pub.
The 88-year-old building is made of solid old growth fir and has many unique, fun features Reid says could be incorporated into any number of projects. The granary’s old electrical circuit breakers could be converted to beer taps or a back bar.
“You couldn’t plan something like this,” he says.
It's an intoxicating project for a city that has long pondered how to best use what was once one of the biggest logging mills and industrial sites on the West Coast. The city and port have only signed off on the granary project, but more than 100 additional acres could be developed.
“I see a Pike Place Market, a place for families to come reconnect with their waterfront,” says Reid. Plans show a quarter of a mile long park along a waterfront channel, trails that run from Ferndale to Lake Whatcom, and an extension of Western Washington University.
The most striking possibility is the opportunity with six massive pulp mill tanks that look like retro rockets.
“They're simply magnificent. They’re works of art,” says Reid. “The developer suggested maybe we should shoot water out of the top of then and have a fountain at the bottom with light on them and light them up.”
The Granary is expected to open next summer. What’s next remains to be seen.