By Steve Guntli
Two years after he withdrew from the city, acclaimed developer Ken Imus is returning to Blaine.
While the details so far are thin, Imus, president of Jacaranda Land Development, confirmed he is planning a renovation on his property at 648 Peace Portal Drive.
Imus is best known for revitalizing Fairhaven in Bellingham, turning the seaside community into a thriving tourist destination. Imus expressed interest in the past of making the Blaine and Birch Bay areas his next projects.
Imus said he has hired Kathleen Hill to redesign his Blaine building. Hill was the designer responsible for renovating the Blaine Bank Building into the Black Forest Steakhouse. Imus said Hill is finishing a project in Salt Lake City, Utah, after which she will return to Blaine to work on the renovations.
Imus said the building will be remodeled to have retail space on the ground floor and condominiums upstairs.
Blaine city manager Dave Wilbrecht said city officials are excited to be working with Imus again.
“We’ve talked to him about the renovations,” Wilbrecht said. “We don’t have any specific plans or a timeline laid out just yet, but we’re excited about the idea of him coming back. We’ve spoken about things he would like to do to beautify that building, which is one of the premiere properties downtown.”
Imus withdrew his money and support from Blaine following a contentious interaction with Blaine City Council in January 2013. In 2010, the city imposed a five-year moratorium on general facility fees (GFCs) in the hopes of spurring new development in the city. GFCs charge new owners for infrastructure investments made by previous owners. In 2013, the council decided the GFC waiver wasn’t attracting the development the city hoped, and voted to withdraw the moratorium.
The GFC waiver was part of the agreement Imus made with the city, and when the council voted to reinstate the fees, Imus withdrew his financial support.
Imus is hopeful the city will be able to work with him now.
“They’ve been difficult to work with in the past,” he said. “I’ve walked out of negotiations before. But they’ve got a new city manager who’s been easy to talk to, so I’m optimistic.”
An earlier version of this post identified Kathleen Hill as the architect for the Blaine Bank building. She was actually the designer; Sean Hegstad was the architect of record.