New owners have big plans
The area’s first new major retail development in many years will take place this summer and fall as Far North Ventures of Mount Vernon renovates and expands the Peace Arch Factory Outlet Mall at 3400 Birch Bay-Lynden Road, turning it into Birch Bay Square.
Located in the northwest section of exit 270 on I-5, the Birch Bay-Lynden Road interchange, the 15-acre mall will more than double in size, according to Far North Venture’s Paul Ware, to include several restaurants and a hoped-for major grocery store as an anchor in the as yet undeveloped north 20 acres of the 35-acre parcel.
Ware was unwilling to name the businesses that head of leasing, Brian Finnegan, is working to attract, but said they include some familiar names as well as satellites of family-owned restaurants in Bellingham. “Some of them are the kind where you can order from your car, and others are the kind with tablecloths and no ketchup on the table unless you ask for it,” Ware joked, “plus, in the acre of ground just south of the mall, a stand-alone major restaurant.”
Ware said that there are “three or four” major grocers that are currently under consideration for the north part of the mall. The gasoline-powered narrow-gauge train that currently runs on a railway that encircles the mall may become a part of the design as well. “We’ll have to get people around somehow,” Ware said, “and that train may be a part of it.”
Ware’s company paid just over $4 million for the property and will spend another $3.5 million remodeling it along the lines of the recently renovated Lynnwood Mall just north of Seattle.
“We like the inside-outside feeling of the place,” Ware said, “with the outdoor fireplace they have and the casual atmosphere.” He expects to choose an architect this week after meeting with Whatcom County executive Pete Kremen and Whatcom County planning director Hal Hart, both of whom were “quite positive and encouraging,” Ware said.
Finnegan has managed the Sehome Mall in Bellingham, among other properties, and is signing up prospective tenants for Birch Bay Square. Ware said that those interested should contact Finnegan at Westcom Properties in Bellingham at 647-2856. The Wares anticipate retaining the current businesses that want to stay.
Ware, 51, and his three sons developed the Granary Center in downtown Mount Vernon, the Northern Meadows Estates in Bellingham as well as numerous medical facilities, specializing in “Clinicare” walk-in medical centers. Jared Ware will be manager of the new mall.