Bellingham businesses busy with remodels, moves

As Whatcom County tries to shake off this cold winter weather, it’s time for commercial remodeling season.

Spring tends to be a busy time for businesses to move into new spaces or fix up the ones they currently have. One area going through a variety of changes is Bakerview Square. It has two new tenants, a tenant expansion and a tenant move, according to Randy Sears, property manager at Bakerview Square.

  • The two new tenants are a church and a chiropractic practice. The new church will be called the Church at Bakerview; it is currently the North Shore Church and is part of the Evangelical Free Church of America. The 4,000-square-foot space is being renovated and is scheduled to be ready by the beginning of May, said Pastor Bill Friske.

    Friske said the shopping center is an appealing place for several reasons, including its central location and it has nearby breakfast places such as IHOP and The Woods Coffee for the congregation to visit after services.

    The new chiropractic office is called IN8 Family Chiropractic and is scheduled to open April 1, Sears said.

  • Charter College is adding about 6,000-square feet to its campus, adding new classrooms.
  • To make way for the church, Northwest Keyboards moved into the former PartEZon space near IHOP last week. Northwest Keyboards sells and rents pianos. For details, call 360-647-9435.

Read the full article by Dave Gallagher at the Bellingham Herald.

by Dave Gallagher

Bakerview Square remains busy landing new businesses


Despite the sluggish economy, Bakerview Square continues to add tenants.

The retail center near Whatcom Community College and Bellis Fair has two businesses that have opened and two more nearly ready to open.

Miracle Ear and Urban Sol are the most recent businesses to open in the retail center.

Miracle Ear, which specializes in hearing aids and related services, was formerly in the Sears store at Bellis Fair before making the move. It’s operated by Monte Mahan and Heather Rainey.

Meanwhile, the former Beach N Brew tanning salon was taken over by Cortney and Josh Covert and is now doing business as Urban Sol. It will continue offering tanning services and they plan a grand opening celebration Saturday, Nov. 6, with discounts and prices.

The businesses nearly ready to open in the center are Bratz in Vogue and Hobbytown USA.

Bratz in Vogue is expected to open later this week and is owned by Ken and Bianca Newbatt. The store offers trendy clothes from newborns up to teenagers, with such brand names as DKNY and Diesel. Once open, store hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A grand opening for Bratz in Vogue is set for Monday, Nov. 1. Details are at

Ken Newbatt said they were attracted to Bakerview because of the mix of tenants already there.

“We want to have a hip, trendy look to our store and this plaza has the kind of buildings to offer that,” he said.

Hobbytown USA is expected to open in its new space near Charter College in early November, much earlier than the original move date of April, according to the store’s Facebook page. The store is moving from its current spot at 4151 Meridian St., near the Meridian Cost Cutter, into the larger space. The store sells a variety of toys, including models and puzzles.

Big development plans in Bellingham’s Bakerview

BELLINGHAM – Developer Morgan Bartlett wants to build a motel along West Bakerview Road near Interstate 5, and plans to follow it with a convention center and restaurant.

Near where the Jack in the Box went in at Northwest Avenue, a hotel group has permits to build a Marriott. Another hotel is planned nearby.

“I love the future, especially out here,” said Bartlett, the commercial property owner who built Bakerview Square shopping center, which is still landing tenants even in a recession. “If we keep going, (even) through the recession, I can only imagine what we’ll do when it turns around.

“Even today, you look up and down (Bakerview) and see a lot of vacant land,” he added.

Developers see the corridor as prime for growth, and various proposals would enable more of it. Three hotels are planned, the city will consider a rezone that would allow large retail development, and thousands of homes could come as part of a proposed annexation. Developers see this as a desirable place to develop and a natural location for the city to grow.

“Close to the freeway, close to major shopping, why wouldn’t that be the logical extension?” asked Ron Jepson, who is working to annex 265 acres between Pacific Highway and Aldrich Road.

Growth faces challenges, however, especially from already-congested streets and plentiful wetlands. The state is studying options to reduce congestion where it’s currently the worst: the Bakerview/I-5 interchange.


Late last year, Richard and Janis Barsetti Gray applied to rezone about 10 acres north of Bakerview (roughly across from Fred Meyer) from industrial property to industrial/commercial. In February, the City Council voted to have staff study the proposal and bring it back for final council consideration.

The council is scheduled to hold a hearing and consider it Monday, Oct. 11.

In late 2007 a company submitted an application asking for the same rezone to allow construction of a WinCo Foods. The council rejected it in 2008.

In February, some council members said they support the idea of having a mixed-use urban village-type development in that area, rather than large retail surrounded by large parking lots. “I will vote against it if it’s going straight commercial,” council member Jack Weiss said at the time.


In late August, Bartlett submitted an application for a four-story, 77-unit motel near Bakerview and Pacific Highway. The motel, called “Pacific Plaza,” would be accessed via Pacific Highway.

Bartlett sees long-term potential there, particularly with airport growth and good visibility from I-5. He hopes to get a permit in the next few months.

At some point, he’d like to see a convention center and restaurant built adjacent to the hotel. “I like to take one project at a time, as best I can,” he said.

Along Northwest Avenue south of Bakerview, 360 Hotel Group of Lynnwood has a permit for a five-story, 204-room Marriott hotel.

Surrey, B.C.,-based Citadel Inc. in May held a pre-application meeting with the city for a proposed four-story, 87-room hotel west of Northwest and south of Bakerview. Plans showed it as a La Quinta Inn. It would access Bakerview Road west of the Starbucks.

Bellingham Transportation Planner Chris Comeau said the developers are conducting a traffic study for it.


In January 2008 landowners got initial council approval to annex land on both sides of I-5, which would allow the city to extend new utility connections, a big step toward enabling urban development.

The Pacific Highway-Aldrich Annexation would include 265 acres between Pacific Highway and Aldrich Road, north of city limits up to roughly Larrabee Road. Developers envision possibly up to 1,000 homes served by new streets and roundabouts connecting Northwest with Pacific Highway and Bakerview at the Fred Meyer traffic signal.

Because of wetlands on site, they’d like to do a high-density development, possibly with low-rise towers on the buildable areas, said Jepson, a partner in a development company that owns 110 acres there.

The new streets could connect to the new June Road extension, providing Cordata residents a straight western access to Northwest and Pacific Highway.

The annexation has encountered a hurdle, however, because planners and developers disagree about how much study of wetlands and streams should be done by developers before it’s considered for annexation.

The Bennett-Bakerview-Airport Drive Annexation would pull into city limits 175 acres west of I-5 on both sides of Bakerview. The City Council gave initial approval in August 2007. Most of the property in that area is zoned industrial, and most properties already use city utilities, city planner Moshe Quinn said.

The sticking point here is traffic, Quinn said. In May he wrote a letter to Doug Campbell of Associated Project Consultants stating the city wants a comprehensive traffic study for the annexation.


Congestion already occurs during rush hour at the Bakerview/I-5 interchange; growth, particularly of the airport and nearby industrial areas, will “put tremendous pressure on this interchange,” Comeau said.

“The reality is there isn’t enough capacity on the bridge to serve the demand that’s there,” he said.

Developers will have to meet various transportation laws, including a new Bellingham law that assigns person trips to an area by counting the ability of the network to move cars, pedestrians, bicyclists and bus riders. Developments draw down that number, like withdrawing from a checking account. No development will be allowed to overdraw the “account.”

They’ll also be reviewed under state environmental law, under which the city can require developers to make street improvements to account for the traffic impacts their projects will produce. But the overpass is already congested, and the city couldn’t hold a developer responsible for a new bridge because it would be disproportional to the impacts of their project, Comeau said.

Still, he sees opportunities for governments and private developers to partner for a new interchange. The No. 1 issue is safety, he said, and during high-congestion times, drivers tend to take risks.

City officials worked with the DOT to coordinate traffic signals along the corridor, aiming to reduce congestion during rush hours. The biggest benefit was seen for westbound traffic during the evening rush hour, according to an April study. In that direction, average speed of vehicles increased from 5.7 mph to 15.8 mph, decreasing the total travel time through the corridor by more than a minute, the study showed.


The DOT created a master plan for I-5 through Bellingham calling for major improvements, including to Bakerview Road’s interchange, likely totaling in the billions of dollars. Right now, that kind of money isn’t available.

“Since nobody has a lot of money, if any, how can we do something for a little bit of money that does a lot?” asked Todd Carlson, transportation planning manager at the DOT.

Officials are studying fixes for the interchange, hoping to find some in the $2 million to $3 million range that would last long enough – typically two decades – to make the investment worth it, he said.

“Improvements are needed to support economic development in this fast growing area of Bellingham,” according to the DOT’s project description.

Ideas include adding a right-turn-only lane for westbound traffic accessing the northbound on-ramp. Two straight-through westbound traffic lanes and a right-turn lane could help greatly. They’re also studying the possibility of a northbound on-ramp accessed from the east side of the freeway.

No money is currently dedicated for construction. By Thanksgiving, they should have a better idea of options, if there are any.

“I don’t want to get everybody too excited if we find that there’s nothing we can do that costs less than 10 million bucks,” Carlson said.


To see plans for proposed hotel and street construction in the Bakerview-I-5 area, click on these links:

• Conceptual drawing for transportation in the proposed Pacific Highway-Aldrich Annexation (courtesy of Ronald T. Jepson and Associates)

• East elevation drawing for the planned Pacific Plaza hotel buliding at Pacific Highway and Bakerview Road (1 of 2 Courtesy of Morgan Bartlett, Madrona Bay Real Estate Investments)

• North elevation drawing for the planned Pacific Plaza hotel buliding at Pacific Highway and Bakerview Road (1 of 2 Courtesy of Morgan Bartlett, Madrona Bay Real Estate Investments)

For more information on the pending annexations, click on theselinks:

• Bennett/Bakerview/Airport Drive.

• Pacific Highway/Aldrich Road.

Read more:


Bellingham Developer Ready to Start Hotel Project on Bakerview Road


BELLINGHAM – A Bellingham developer is moving forward with plans to build a hotel on Bakerview Road.

Morgan Bartlett Jr. plans to file building permit applications later this week for Pacific Plaza, an 80-room hotel across the street from the Bakerview Fred Meyer retail center, near Interstate 5 and Pacific Highway.

The hotel would be the first phase of the project; Bartlett later plans to build a convention center that could have offices and a restaurant on the property.

“We were originally going to do it as one building but decided it would be better to break it into two different phases,” said Bartlett, owner of Madrona Bay Real Estate Investments in Bellingham.

The original plan three years ago was for a 15-story building that included the hotel, a convention center, a restaurant, offices and condominiums.

Although Bartlett is applying for permits this week, it may be a while before construction begins. Bartlett wants to focus on filling Bakerview Square, a retail center he’s spent four years developing.

He believes it’ll take another six months to finish signing tenants for the retail center before focusing on the hotel. He estimates the hotel project would take about 18 months to complete.

If Bartlett gets the permits approved, he will have several options. He could sell the property and have a hotel franchise develop it using the approved permits; he could build the hotel himself and lease the facility; or he could operate it himself.

“I thought it was a great location when I bought the property, being near an airport that’s growing and a high-traffic area,” said Bartlett, who has completed a traffic analysis of the area.

Bakerview Square signs four new tenants

While many retail centers have found it challenging to stay filled, Bakerview Square continues to sign tenants.

The retail center on West Bakerview Road, near Whatcom Community College, recently signed four tenants, two of which are already open: Beauty in the Bead Shop, which opened Saturday, Oct. 31 and Brite Smile/Brite Skin Med Spa, which moved in from Bellis Fair. Track Radio, which installs speaker systems at malls, will be moving into the center while a fourth tenant, which is in the education services industry, is expected to be announced later this month, taking about 17,000 square feet of space.

There is also the Fireside Martini and Wine Bar, which is expected to open next month.

Morgan Bartlett, developer of Bakerview Square, said the retail center has been able to build on the momentum from tenant signings before the recession hit locally last year. This is a project he’s been developing in phases for four years.

He took a bit of a different route in signing tenants, which has seemed to work for the center: Instead of signing an anchor business first, they concentrated on trying to get small- to mid-size companies.

“I feel fortunate, because we went after this backwards from what’s normally done,” Bartlett said. “I didn’t want to bank this (Bakerview) Square on one or two large tenants to make this work.”

Beauty in the Bead Shop is a new business started by ToiAnn Hanson and Linda Mercadante. The 1,100-square-foot business is next to Labels Women’s Consignment Store and offers thousands of gem stones, beads and pearls from all over the world. There is also a bead bar where customers get help matching and putting together gifts.

Hanson said they chose that spot because it’s a good location in the north part of town. It also helps that it is near several businesses that are geared toward women.

“We’ve had a great response through word-of-mouth,” Hanson said. “There are more people making gifts, trying to stretch their dollars and give something that has more meaning. There are also a lot of great local artisans around.”

The bead shop is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For details about the Beauty in the Bead Shop, call 393-4605.

This article was written by Dave Gallagher and appeared in the Bellingham Herald on November 18, 2009

Charter College Coming to Bakerview Square

BELLINGHAM, WA. November 23, 2009 – Bakerview Square is pleased to announce that Charter College will be a new anchor tenant in the latest phase of the commercial development.

Charter College will be the latest, and largest tenant at Bakerview Square. Their new Bellingham campus will encompass up to 23,000 square feet. Charter College offers career-focused education in the growing fields of Business, Health Care, Criminal Justice and Information Technology. They offer both degree and/or diploma programs. This enables students to start sooner and finish faster by providing hands-on training. This approach reinforces classroom and laboratory learning, with smaller class sizes where students have more interaction with the instructors.

Charter College has campuses in Alaska, California and the Tri-Cities area of Eastern Washington, along with on-line courses. Programs vary by campus location. The new Bellingham campus will open January 2010 via temporary classrooms in the Square, with the completion of the permanent space scheduled for February 2010.

“I am pleased to welcome Charter as an anchor tenant to Bakerview Square,” says Morgan Bartlett, developer of Bakerview Square. “Charter’s 500 students/faculty will enjoy the retail/restaurant/services of the Square, and our existing and future tenants will benefit greatly from the increased traffic. It’s a true win-win”.

For Bakerview Square leasing information please contact Kurt Swanson at 360-920-6555. For additional information, please visit Bakerview Square’s website at For additional information about Charter College, please visit