Commissioners for the Port of Bellingham are rotating commission seats for 2020.
Michael Shepard, who was serving as secretary, is now president. Bobby Briscoe, who was serving as president, is now vice president. Ken Bell, who was serving as vice president, is now secretary.
The decision was made at the Port’s Dec. 10, 2019 meeting.
Commissioner Briscoe said “it’s been an honor and a pleasure to be the president,” and thanked staff for the job they do for the people of Whatcom County. Briscoe was re-elected to serve another 4 years as a Port Commissioner in November 2019.
Also new this year, the Port is reducing the area leased to the Holiday Inn at Bellingham International Airport and will be using that area for a rental car return facility.
The southwest parking area at the Holiday Inn will be removed from its lease with the Port effective January 1, 2020. The area was added on to the original lease because management believed they would need extra parking.
Dan Mitzel, a managing member of Bellingham Holiday Inn, told the commission “we have more property there than we need based on the reality of where business levels are and what’s going on with the airport, the amount of traffic at the airport, and the amount of business that we’re receiving from being located next to the airport.”
The 30,821 square feet will be used for the development of the Airport’s Quick Turn Around Facility for rental car agencies, according to Port documents. Commissioner Shepard credited Port staff for their “good creative thinking.” Mitzel called the agreement a ‘win-win’ because it allows the Port to proceed with the rental car project and it will increase business at the Holiday Inn.
A new plan for developing the Bellingham Waterfront District is in effect as of January 1, 2020.
The Port Commission approved its 2019 Waterfront District Master Plan Documents, including a long-awaited update to the Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan, at its final meeting of 2019.
The Sub-Area Plan is a guide for the long-term redevelopment project which will transform Bellingham’s waterfront from its past as the contaminated site of GP’s former pulp and tissue mill into its future as a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.
The Port has been working cooperatively with the City of Bellingham and the developer, Harcourt Developments, to formulate the new plan since October 2017 – a process that has involved several public hearings.
“There’s been a number of opportunities for the public to engage in this process,” Commissioner Shepard said, “both with us, with the Planning Commission and with the City Council — and that’s really what we were looking for all along.”
Shepard said that Harcourt Developments is ramping up its plans for development and is increasing its presence here in Bellingham. A representative of Harcourt is moving here to Bellingham in January 2020 to work exclusively on the waterfront project. Harcourt is an international development company based in Dublin, and Port Commissioners have expressed frustration in the past that the company was moving too slow on its plans for Bellingham’s waterfront.
A new “Bike and Brew” festival will be coming to the waterfront this year.
Port Executive Director Rob Fix announced that the Northwest Tune-Up, bicycle club, has received a $70,000 tourism grant award from the City of Bellingham, for a bike and brew festival to increase tourism in Bellingham; this is expected to become an annual event.
The festival will be held June 5-6 down on the waterfront. Fix said it will include bands and nightly entertainment. Some of the basic infrastructure for the event — a grass lawn area, electrical and plumbing for temporary bathrooms — will be started in January.
Commissioners said the bicycle pump track that opened in the fall has been a huge success and has brought many people down to the waterfront, and they may look at other interim uses to engage the public while the redevelopment takes place.
Written by Mike Curtiss