Peace Portal condos planned
“This is the beginning, the first,” Blaine community development director Terry Galvin advised city council members as they got their first taste of what developer Joel Douglas plans to build on vacant waterfront land on Peace Portal Drive at Clark Street. “You want to spend some time and attention on the development of the central business district.”
As he introduced the Palisades project to council members at their January 10 meeting, Douglas said he was in no rush to start the project, which the planning commission will start reviewing next week. “We don’t have to build this year,” he said.
Plans are for a three-story building that will combine condominiums with motel units. “This is a really different concept,” Douglas said. The 18 two-bedroom condominium units will be designed so one of the bedrooms can be sealed off from the rest of the unit and rented out as a motel room, accessible through a separate entrance. On the first floor a management company would take care of reservations and receiving guests. “You would as an owner have an obligation to rent either the whole unit or the motel unit a portion of the time,” Douglas explained. “You need that so the management organization can survive economic-ally.”
Douglas’ Harbor Lands Company has built a number of condominium and hotel projects in Whatcom, Island and San Juan counties. He said the Landmark Inn on Orcas Island was the first project they developed in which privately owned units are rented out for a portion of the year. “They’re going great,” Douglas said. “It makes an investment property an income property.”
Once completed the condominium units, especially on the waterfront side of the building, would be some of the more expensive real estate in central Blaine. “We’re talking $300,000 to $400,000 for those views,” Douglas said. “They’re going to be pricey.” He explained that the cost of the land and of building on a sharp slope near the shoreline made it an expensive project.
Not all of Douglas’ ventures mixing condos and vacation lodging have gone smoothly. His efforts to turn a portion of his Montecito condominium project in Friday Harbor into short-term rental units ran into a wall as city government and the courts repeatedly denied Douglas’ applications to get a conditional use permit or zoning changes.
Douglas thinks he has a good fit in the transitional zone on the fringe of Blaine’s downtown. Hotels and motels are permitted uses in the central business district, and multi-family residential is allowed above street level.
Despite having units on every floor, Douglas said he had indications from city planners the motel use of the building would qualify it in that zone.
Preliminary designs for the building have incorporated brick facing, period colors, iron railings and architectural details to fit with the city’s turn-of-the-century design guidelines. “It’s semi-Victorian,” Douglas said. “This is the best we can come up with for what we want to do.”
Douglas said the project was designed with more parking spaces than needed so some could be set aside for public use to improve the accessibility to the adjacent Clark Street parklet. “I’d like to see some street parking credit for another project,” he said.
After Blaine planning commission reviews the project, it may come before city council for major development review despite being under the thresholds that automatically trigger that process. Galvin was already suggesting such a move at the January 10 council meeting. “I wanted to bring this to your attention,” he said.