At their regular Commission meeting on Tuesday, Port of Bellingham Commissioners will consider a proposal for the Port to spend $4.1 million to purchase as 36,000-square-foot office building at Bellwether on the Bay.
Bayview Center is owned by Bellwether Harbor Investments, LLP, a group of investors led by local developer Andre Molnar, which purchased the Hotel Bellwether and the office building from Peter Paulsen in 2007. The building, including the small kiosk in front of it, was constructed in 2001 by Paulsen who also built the hotel.
"Bellwether Harbor Investment LLP's main focus is the operation of the Hotel Bellwether,” Molnar said. “We believe that the Port of Bellingham is better equipped and prepared to operate the office complexes at Bellwether on the Bay, hence enhancing the success of this beautiful waterfront development."
The Class A office building currently has 18 tenants with 85 percent of its space occupied. It was appraised in 2012 for $5 million. The Port already owns the “sister building” the Bellwether Building, which also is mixed use and Class A office space.
“Ever since the new Bellwether Gate project paid the Port its long-term land lease for its four new buildings in a lump sum, we have been seeking a good investment opportunity for this money so that it can produce ongoing revenues for the Port,” said Executive Director Rob Fix. “I believe this building, which is adjacent to a property we already own and operate, is the right investment for these funds.”
Several years ago, when the Port sold its Sumas Co-Generation property for $1.3 million, the money was set aside for new real estate investments. That money, combined with over $2 million from Bellwether Gate, makes this latest purchase possible. One of the ways the Port of Bellingham Commissioners keep property tax rates low is by careful management of Port operations - such as real estate - which earn revenues.
The full purchase price for the Port is $4.58 million, but it is discounted to $4.1 million providing that the Hotel Bellwether retains priority use of the ballroom for 10 years up to four times a month. The remaining bookings will be done by the Port’s Meetings and Events Department which already manages rentals at the Squalicum Boathouse and the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, as well as other Port meeting spaces.