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The historic Boardmill building on the Bellingham waterfront is up for grabs

The Port of Bellingham is taking proposals from developers for the historic building

The historic Boardmill building is still standing at the Bellingham Waterfront in Bellingham, WA, on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. The Port of Bellingham has started accepting proposals on the redevelopment opportunity. // Photo by Emily Paulson

The site of the closed Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper mill could be a part of a redeveloped hotel and conference center on the Bellingham waterfront.

The Port of Bellingham is looking for ideas about what to do with the site, which includes the Boardmill building built in the 1940s. 

The redevelopment site includes the 44,000-square-foot building on approximately 3.42 acres. It has two floors with 16-foot ceilings on the first and 24 feet on the second.

Elliott Smith, Port of Bellingham director of real estate, said they have local and regional developers interested in redoing the property. 

“The Port is seeking a high-quality proposal integrating retail, restaurant and recreational uses into a hotel complex or other use using the historic Boardmill building,” Smith said. “The Port is looking for unique concepts which celebrate the history of the site.” 

Designs submitted are encouraged to integrate maritime industries and the site’s industrial past.

The Port issued a request for proposals for the Boardmill building on Jan. 31, which allows developers to submit their ideas on what to do with the building. The Port will judge each proposal on five factors: schedule, architectural design, sustainability, team composition and finance plan. The proposals are due on April 29. 

The Boardmill building, constructed around 1946, is one of the last existing structures from the former pulp and paper mill. The structure has views of the San Juan Islands and sits across the street from the Container Village.

The site of the Boardmill building on the Bellingham waterfront on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. Across the street stands the Container Village and the site of proposed condominium buildings. // Video by Emily Paulson

Jeff Jewel, historian and archivist at the Whatcom Museum, said the building used to be owned by the Georgia-Pacific company.

“Pulp production made tissue and paperboard products at the Boardmill,” Jewell said. “The tissue products became bathroom tissue products that included facial tissues and paper napkins.”

The Port hopes the Boardmill building will tie in with the downtown.

Mike Hogan, Port of Bellingham public affairs administrator, said submitted proposals should fit into the context of the redevelopment of the waterfront.

“For the hotel proposals, the Port is looking for unique boutique hotel concepts rather than cookie-cutter corporate hotel designs,” Hogan said.

Hogan and Smith said the Port is open to other proposals besides a hotel.

“While it is difficult to predict how many proposals we will receive, of most interest to the Port will be high-quality proposals supporting the community’s vision of a vibrant, downtown waterfront,” Smith said.

The development team that is awarded the project will have some guidelines to follow.

“All projects will need to comply with the rules and regulations set forth in the Waterfront District Subarea Plan and Waterfront District Development Regulations, which were developed by the Port and City, to guide private development with significant public review and input,” said Smith. “This will include connecting to an innovative clean energy district heating and cooling system which is anticipated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85% at full buildout.”

Click here for more information about the Boardmill site.


Emily Paulson

Emily Paulson (she/her) is a senior reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a sophomore currently pursuing a double major in journalism specifically news/ed track and in accounting. Emily focuses her reporting on the Bellingham waterfront and other city news stories. Outside of journalism, Emily plays on the Western softball team, enjoys watching sports, spending time with friends and working on her podcast. 

Her instagram is @empaulson22 


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