Blaine City Council aims for a hotel at the north end of the site
By Stefanie Donahue
Now more than ever, real estate investors want a piece of Blaine’s Gateway Parcel.
“We have been pretty busy with the Gateway property, especially as of late, due to a number of factors,” Mike Kent told Blaine City Council. “The most important of which is probably just the general optimism in the business community both in Whatcom County, Washington state and the nation right now.”
Kent and Jeff Johnson, both local Windermere real estate agents, were hired by the city of Blaine in February to list the unsold portions of the approximately 40-acre property. The pair gave the update to city council during its regular meeting on July 9.
“What we’ve been seeing in the last 24 months is a huge transition from the Puget Sound and Seattle area. A lot of pressure is coming north up the I-5 corridor on land in Whatcom County because land is a lot cheaper in Whatcom County than it is in Snohomish County and, of course, King County,” Johnson said.
Since listing the property, the pair has received about 150 hits on the commercial broker website they use, Johnson said.
“I am optimistic that we can position the [remaining] 6.5 acres quite well,” he said. “I’m pretty bullish that we’re going to get the right kind of user and get the property sold.”
Following the presentation, Blaine City Council took action on several items that pertain to the Gateway Parcel. Here’s a look:
“Vision a Reality”
Local investors and builders Manmohan Singh and Shamsher Singh Randhawa presented a letter of intent to the city council to purchase 2 acres on the north end of the parcel. The letter, written on behalf of the investors, stated the pair wanted to help the city make its “vision a reality.”
The proposal included a 60-unit hotel, a 2,000-square-foot restaurant and a 20-unit, multi-family residential development.
The investors said the proposal was in part spurred by recent comments made by mayor Bonnie Onyon, who stated the city council had an interest in seeing a hotel built at the north end of the parcel.
Singh and Randhawa offered $326,000 for the site, or approximately $3.74 per square foot.
“A hotel and restaurant would be welcome additions to city services while a multi-family development would address market demand for affordable housing,” read the letter. “Our [proposal] aligns to [the city’s] vision for development of the east Blaine business district with a mix of multi-purpose, business, retail and commercial properties on the Gateway Parcel.”
Blaine City Council voted 6–0 (in the absence of councilmember Charlie Hawkins) to decline the offer based on price; it’s currently being listed for approximately $4.10 per square foot.
“My recommendation to you is that you decline the offer based on price and encourage the buyers to move forward and meet with our agent and try to develop an alternative proposal,” said interim city manager Michael Jones. He suggested a new price and a more cohesive plan would also be appropriate.
Jones said both investors expressed interest in working on an alternative proposal that would exclude multi-family housing, which is not permitted on the site.
“The hotel and restaurant are excellent uses for that site,” he said. “It seems like a good fit.”
“I appreciate the offer,” added councilmember Steve Lawrenson. “One of the things I’d like you to consider when you’re coming back to us […] We would like to see some living-wage jobs created on that property. That’s always something we’ve promised the citizens of this town.”
“Half of this proposal is precisely what the city is looking for,” councilmember Meg Olson added. “With a different price point, and perhaps working with other interested investors who want to work with this property, I’m sure we can put together some sort of package that will serve the citizens of Blaine as well as serving your own business interests.”
Yorkston Oil Company, Inc.
In exchange for prohibiting gas fueling stations on 6.5 unsold acres of the Gateway Parcel, the city will acquire a valuable right-of-way from a property owned by Boblett Properties LLC.
Boblett Properties LLC, representing Yorkston Oil Co., is negotiating with the city to purchase and transfer land on the Gateway Parcel. The company intends to build a truck fuel stop, fast food restaurant, coffee shop and convenience grocery store, according to a report from staff.
In June, Boblett Properties LLC recommended Blaine City Council approve the restriction as part of a purchase and sale agreement. It was approved 7–0 by the council.
Moving forward, Boblett Properties LLC will exchange the right-of-way with the city for $4 per square foot. It will eventually be used for a road widening project on Boblett Street.
“It will avoid the need to go through eminent domain condemnation proceedings and avoid some of the other costs related to that,” Jones said. “The city is actually saving a lot of time in staff time, consulting fees and also getting the property that is needed for a road project.
Jones said the city is about 30 days away from closing the sale with Boblett Properties LLC.
IK Truck Repair
The city is taking strides to reduce the impact of industrial development on Skallman Park located on 1190 Yew Avenue.
In April, Ivan and Marina Kovtun signed a purchase and sale agreement with the city for 4.4 acres on the south end of the Gateway Parcel, which abuts Skallman Park.
The pair own IK Truck Repair, located at 2490 Bell Road in Blaine, and intend to develop a tractor trailer services facility, oriented towards tire sales and trailer repair, and will also provide truck parking.
Concerned about the potential impact to the park, Blaine City Council held a study session in May and eventually requested that Ivan and Marina consider alternative property dimensions.
The pair listened and returned with a proposal that preserved more old-growth trees to reduce potential noise impact to the park while acquiring more land.
“I think the proponent’s project is of economic importance to the city and I think we need to move swiftly to allow them to move forward with that, but in doing so, we need to also take into account that this is an important resource to our citizens,” Olson said.
Users of the dog park, she said, are most concerned about an increase in heavy truck traffic.
Intent on preserving the trees, Blaine City Council voted 6–0 to approve the new property dimensions proposed by Ivan and Marina, with a slight alteration.
The city’s park and cemetery board will also be asked to develop a plan for the park in response to the new development.
“I really appreciate how cooperative the buyers have been,” Jones said.