Port signs lease for ‘Fisherman’s village’ project

Published on Wed, Dec 15, 2010 by By Tara Nelson

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A new project slated for Milhollin Drive could change the face of Blaine’s wharf district if a Salt Lake City-based developer is able to pull through with her plans.

In their regular meeting Thursday, Port of Bellingham commissioners approved a 10-month lease option on a five-acre parcel of land to Community Studio LLC, a Utah-based development company co-owned by Kathleen Hill.

The project calls for a mixed-use, water-oriented urban village with low-impact design on approximately five acres near the end of Milhollin Drive in Blaine Harbor.

Hill is also the architect for Ken Imus’ project on Peace Portal Drive.

Community Studio will pay a $10,000 non-refundable option fee to secure the property while it pursues financing for the project. If they are unable to get funds by September 30, 2011, the lease will automatically terminate, port real estate director Shirley McFearin said.

“Until then, we really won’t know whether we have a project or not,  but we’re keeping our fingers crossed,” she said.
If the project moves forward, the port will work cooperatively to replace weblockers and relocate webhouse tenants. In the meantime, weblockers – which occupy much of the site – will remain in place and the port will continue to receive revenue from those tenants.

Community Studio will also be required to install a shoreline promenade throughout the Gateway Area and perform upgrades to Milhollin Drive including sidewalks, landscaping, street lighting, street trees and utilities.

Port commissioner Michael McAuley said the total cost of developing the site would be about $50 million to $60 million and that the site plan could include four or five two- to four-story buildings.

McAuley said the lease will serve as a placeholder for the next 10 months to allow Hill time to secure financing. If she is successful, McAuley said he thinks the project will fall in line with the city’s master plan for that area.

“If she can stick with it and get the financing she needs, I feel confident that Blaine’s going to have a set of nice-looking buildings at the end of the day,” McAuley said. “I think she’s a builder that understands the emerging modern landscape and I feel comfortable she’ll give a nice project to the city – we just hope she can pull the financing together.”

Hill is also the architect of the Asian Bistro restaurant building in Fairhaven.