City unveils train depot relocation study

Published on Thu, Jan 22, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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City unveils train depot relocation study

By Jack Kintner

A report presented to the Blaine city council last week estimated the cost of moving the more than 100-year-old Blaine train depot building and restoring it for public use as somewhere between $500,000 and $600,000.

Prepared by Blaine’s community development director Terry Galvin, the report estimated that it will cost $25,000 to move the 3,100-square-foot building to what’s known as Plover Park at the west end of Milhollin Drive near the boat launch. The rest is taken up by expenses associated with a top to bottom restoration including landscaping and foundation work as well as floors, plumbing, heating and roof work, painting and so on. Sewer, water and electrical hookups add another $25,500. The estimate does not include parking or improvements to Plover Park itself.

Galvin’s report says it would cost money the city does not now have but which could be generated by “outside sources of revenue” such as loans, grants and donations. The report goes on to state that “...for a number of reasons the concept of moving the building and restoring it has merit... As a community based multi-purpose facility [it] could provide many functions and contribute to an emerging waterfront recreational economy in Blaine.”

Richard Sturgill, founding director of the local non-profit Drayton Harbor Maritime (DHM), agreed, saying that if it’s done correctly “there’s no doubt that it would make money for years to come.

Bellingham made over $75,000 last year on renting out what it calls the Boathouse at Squalicum Marina. It would have all that’s needed, a kitchen and lots of room for large functions like weddings.”

Sturgill said that the structure could also serve as a terminal building for the Plover ferry that he and others began restoring 20 years ago. Rentals, shops and other revenue-generating activities could help both pay off the costs of moving and restoring the structure as well as support the Plover’s operation, Sturgill said.

“There’s already a commitment from a local yacht club to contribute $20,000, which would almost cover the actual move, and to pay $300 a month rent for use of the upper floor,” Sturgill said. “And with the pedestrian overpass the old building could once again become a gateway for Blaine as it once was, a place where boaters and Plover passengers from Semiahmoo would come through on their way to downtown.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) officials advised the city last year that they want to lay a third track through Blaine, and since the depot is in the way they plan to either demolish it or sell it for a nominal fee if the buyer agrees to move it. Developer Ken Imus once expressed interest in the building but backed away when he found out about Sturgill’s ideas for its use, which he supports.

“This building in that place would be perfect for a museum,” Sturgill said, “because it has some real strong connections with Blaine’s history.

“That could be a big draw, but once it’s gone, it’s gone.”