Developer has big plans for project in downtown Blaine

Demolition crews deconstruct a building at 685 Peace Portal Drive. Photo by Stefanie Donahue

Apartments, restaurant and retail store planned for 685 Peace Portal Drive.

By Stefanie Donahue

Demolition crews deconstructed a 1920s-era building in downtown Blaine last week to make way for a new development project that includes a mix of residential and commercial space.

The property is located at 685 Peace Portal Drive next to the H Street Plaza and previously contained a two-story, approximately 3,200-square foot building. In 2016, private investor Peter Gigante purchased the property with his wife Joana and is gearing up to construct a three-story, approximately 5,300-square-foot building at the site.

The Hollinger family owned the property prior to Gigante. He discovered the building on the site when it was advertised for rent and eventually was able to work out a deal with the family to purchase the property for $290,000.

He said Drayton Harbor Oyster Company will relocate to the new building from its 667 Peace Portal Drive location once it’s constructed. Ferndale-based Barlean’s Fishery Inc. is also in “final talks” to open a retail store at the location, he said.

“I kept finding excuses to stop into Blaine,” Gigante said. “[My wife and I] had been looking for some kind of income property. I was looking all over for the best location and it was right under our nose – Blaine.”

The building sat vacant for several years and was last used as office space, according to a document from the city. Built in 1920, a 400-square-foot addition was attached to the basement level in 1973. Over time, the interior deteriorated and the foundation began to settle.

“The building was very old and it needed a lot of work,” Gigante said. “It was reaching the end of its useful life.”

With support from the Hollinger family, who Gigante said took great pride in the property, he decided to move forward with construction, which is estimated to value over $1 million, according to a permit application submitted to the city.

Architect Roger Axelson and structural engineer and contractor Mats Hazelak helped Gigante develop plans for the new building, which will be comprised of three stories with one apartment unit on the basement level, a restaurant and retail store with open access to the H Street Plaza on the ground level and two apartment units on the third level.

The project got a kick start in 2017 when the Blaine Planning Commission voted to allow outdoor dining on the H Street Plaza. The following April, commissioners voted to approve a required shoreline substantial development permit and land use variance, with minor modifications.

“The renovated building will have sweeping views of the Blaine marina, Drayton Harbor, the islands beyond and White Rock to the north,” read a report about the project compiled by city staff.

It continued, “The outdoor dining and connectivity to the H Street Plaza will contribute to the goal of creating a vibrant pedestrian friendly Central Business District.”

Demolishing the building has been a  meticulous process, Gigante explained. He has prioritized preserving the old timber, ceiling tins and other antique components of the building.

“It’s kind of like peeling an onion,” he said. “You can’t find these giant timbers and floorboards anymore.”

The items are currently being stored in a nearby building owned by Brad Imus and will be refurbished and incorporated into the new building. Gigante also plans to install custom-cut wood siding to the exterior of the building.

Looking ahead, Gigante is excited for the building to be complete and for Drayton Harbor Oyster Company and Barlean’s Fishery Inc. to expand in Blaine.

“It really will help create a fresh, local seafood identity for this development,” Gigante said. “It will really help enhance Blaine as a destination.”

The project is set to be complete by next March, he said.

    • Stefanie Donahue August 23, 2018, 12:25 pm

      That’s a great question! The latest update we received from the city was in May. At the time, it had put out a bid for the demolition of 665 Peace Portal Drive and had only received one offer from Wrecking Ball Demolition in the amount of $406,361.79. The price point was too high for the city, so the Blaine City Council decided to reject the offer. In the meantime, adjacent property owners are being asked to fund the stabilization the building’s supporting walls to reduce the overall cost of demolition to the city. Once that process is complete, the city will re-bid the project.

  1. If Mr. Gigante sees this… Please design the exterior of the building that promotes a “seaside village” theme, as was done on the Starbucks building.

    • That’s exactly what I am trying to create. Kind of a cross between LaConner and Fairhaven. The wood siding is modeled after many historical buildings in LaConner from around 1900. Some of the accents such as rails will give it a Fairhaven-esque appearance as well. The interior will be pure old wood and nautical. Much depends on final paint colors. Not easy.

      • I believe this new developement will breathe new life into our city and encourage other restaurants, stores and businesses to engage in the opportunity to do business in Blaine. I can’t wait to spend more of our family dollars locally, and look forward to finally (after residing here for almost 5-years) being able to walk through downtown Blaine with my family and friends, and enjoy the day shopping, taking in the views and/or just relaxing over coffee and/or cocktails and a great meal by the marina!


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