Healthcare: Developer moves forward with large medical office project near St. Joseph hospital
by JARED PABEN for THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
BELLINGHAM – A developer plans to build 138,000 square feet of medical office space, more than 5,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and a parking garage north of St. Joseph hospital.
Mike Allsop and family plan to develop nine acres located just north of Bug Lake, near where Birchwood Avenue turns into Squalicum Parkway just north of the hospital.
Bellingham planners on Jan. 14 decided the project wouldn’t need an environmental impact statement because, if developers meet certain conditions, the project won’t likely cause significant harm to the environment.
The project includes the following:
• Phase I: 25,500 square feet of medical office space and 5,300 square feet of retail and restaurant space. It’s planned to be done by 2012.
• Phase II: 54,400 square feet of medical office space, planned to be done by 2015.
• Phase III: 58,000 square feet of medical office space, planned to be done by 2020.
The project also includes a parking garage with about 500 parking spots, although it’s not currently known when that would be built, city planner Steve Sundin said.
The developers will build an access street to connect where Birchwood and Squalicum Parkway intersect. The city plans to build a new street under Interstate 5 via an abandoned railroad underpass, and that new street will connect to Allsop’s street. On the east side of the freeway, the city’s new street will connect with James Street Road.
Sundin said that, as part of Phase III, the developers would install a signal at the new intersection at Birchwood and Squalicum, and they’d work with the city to decide improvements at Meridian Street and Birchwood.
It’s been a challenging project because it involves issues with the planned connector road, flooding, the planned segment of the Bay to Baker Trail and environmental impacts, Sundin said.
“It’s been a very long project because it’s really at a pinch point for many different things,” he said.
As part of the city’s environmental decision, planners set conditions ranging from complying with existing city law designed to ensure the transportation system isn’t overtaxed to requirements for the timing of when fill material is placed. Crews are expected to bring in about 66,000 cubic yards of fill to increase project elevation above major flood levels.
Allsop said they also have some possible tenants interested, but he said he couldn’t disclose who they are yet. His family, which built the northern street access to the hospital decades ago, has owned this property since 1972, he said. It was previously a farm.
This is the only large property remaining that’s developable for medical uses, he said, while the hospital plans lots of growth over the next two decades. He sees future demand for medical office space.
“Everybody is getting older,” he said. “Ten thousand people a day are going on Social Security.”
Allsop also built the industrial project just southwest and adjacent to the Squalicum Creek Park.
City planners are accepting comments on its environmental decision until Friday, Jan. 28. The project also will need a binding site plan contract with the city, which will spell out development requirements and the timing of infrastructure improvements, as well as a shorelines permit, Sundin said. Those are approved by city planners after the public is notified and comments are accepted.