Plans to relocate the Blaine train station to a proposed park near the boat launch could move forward if Blaine City Council decides to take ownership of the building.
Speaking at a special work session Monday evening, Port of Bellingham planning and development director Sylvia Goodwin told council members the port is willing to work with the city and the Blaine Coalition for Historic Preservation (BCHP), the group working to preserve the 3,300-square foot depot, to do what it takes as long as the port would not have to assume financial liability for the structure.
“Port commissioners are not willing to entertain the idea of the port owning a historic train station that they would have to subsidize,” she said. “However, if the city wants to assume ownership of the building, we are willing to draft an interlocal agreement to accommodate that.”
The agreement is necessary because the park would be located on Port of Bellingham property but maintained by the city.
Coalition president Janet Pickard said she was encouraged by Monday’s discussion and felt that such an aquisition would be an asset to the city.
She said she thought the port’s requirements were reasonable and that the city just needs to agree to those conditions. Once that happens, the group could begin its fundraising efforts for the move and renovation, which, according to the city’s estimates would cost about $600,000.
“We’re encouraged by this because we can’t raise money for a building that doesn’t have a home” she said. “In the future it will be an asset but the city has to take a leap of faith here.”
She added that the space could be rented for wedding receptions and used for community events, theater productions or continuing education classes. “The kitchen at Peace Arch Park is booked through the summer and it’s not even a full catering kitchen,” she said.
Council members, however, still had concerns about costs associated with aquiring a dilapidated train station. Some, such as Jason Overstreet, said they had concerns about taking any money from the general fund during tight economic times and compared to the $70,000 per year the city spends on the Blaine senior center.
Pickard, however, said that comparison is unfair considering the train depot is about half the size and doesn’t serve lunch five days a week. She added that renting such a space for events would supply additional revenue.
Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic gave preliminary support with the caveat of council approval. “If the group can raise enough money to relocate and renovate the building, I think we would want to find the money to level it up and at least plant some grass.”
The council will revisit the issue during their next meeting April 12.