The Gristle

The Millworks

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

THE MILLWORKS: At last—a public project with a public benefit is proposed for our public waterfront, built by local community partners.

Port of Bellingham commissioners last month heard the details of a proposal that would repurpose a long- underutlitized site in the Waterfront District subarea to create affordable housing and local food security. Currently the location of an empty warehouse that formerly supported the Georgia Pacific paper mill’s lignin packaging operations, the mixed-use project—dubbed The Millworks—would create a local food campus supported by an event space and performance center, with associated housing, offices and childcare facilities. A dynamic set of local partners would pool interests to create jobs and help strengthen the local economy.

Taking hold in communities around the country, a local food campus employs a single large space where numerous food-related businesses, suppliers and organizations build synergy from one anothers’ activities, Mauri Ingram explained in a presentation to commissioners. Ingram—a former restaurant owner—is president and CEO of the Whatcom Community Foundation. The foundation serves to connect those many and varied local interests with investment capital.

“The big vision that we have gleaned from a mix of inputs is that we really want to focus on local economic development—job creation and development and job training and retention,” Ingram explained. “We also want to make sure we’re building more wealth in the community for farmers and other producers. We want to make sure that when we think about flagship projects for the waterfront, that this is right up there at the top.”

The campus would feature a variety of uses to support local farms, restaurants, food trucks and stores, and would likely include large commercial kitchens, catering services and storehouses for Whatcom County farmer produce.

Initially intrigued by the idea of a local food campus, commissioners had urged for a higher, better use for the former Lignin Building. Under the proposal, the building shell would be demolished later this year to make way for the food campus, which is expected to occupy around 40,000 square feet of the building site. Next to the food campus would be a residential building, with multiple levels of apartment units priced for a living wage.

“Prior discussions centered on the Lignin Building as a site for a local food campus anchored by Bellingham Public Schools commissary, a concept very well-received by community stakeholders,” Ingram explained. “Additional opportunities have emerged, expanding the vision for a local food campus into a broader concept encompassing permanently affordable housing, the Building Performance Center, an event space, creative officing and childcare facilities.”

The Lignin Building space is strategically placed a distance from the waterfront near the headquarters of the Opportunity Council, a key player in championing affordable housing options. Other community partners in the The Millworks project could include the Community Food Co-op, Bellingham Food Bank, Bellingham Technical College’s food preparation program, and Sustainable Connections’ local food program.

“The Millworks partners will benefit from efficiencies and cost savings because facilities and services will be shared in one, central location,” Ingram explained. “By virtue of their proximity to one another, the exchange of information and ideas will yield improvements, innovations and possible joint ventures. Adding vital workforce housing within walking distance of a primary employment center and a wide range of services and amenities, including public transit, is also a benefit.”

While the Whatcom Community Foundation would serve in the role as a master developer for the project and marshal interests, the organization intends to leave the details of food and housing to the other community partners who will serve as experts.

“I am particularly excited about this opportunity,” admitted Port Commissioner Michael Shepard, who has been working closely with the Whatcom Community Foundation and a number of community stakeholders for the past year and half on this project.

“The Sub Area Plan requires at least 10 percent of housing in the Waterfront District to be affordable,” Shepard explained. “The Millworks Project envisions approximately 70 units of mixed income workforce housing, which would match the approximately 70 luxury condos currently in permitting by Harcourt. Bellingham has an acute need for housing of all types, especially workforce housing. This project would exceed the minimum affordability threshold by at least four times.”

The Millworks project could leverage a $250,000 grant from the state’s Department of Ecology and Department of Commerce to evaluate housing opportunities on the Lignin Building site. The Waterfront District is additionally designated as a Bellingham Opportunity Zone, a federal status that enables investors to receive favorable tax treatment when investing in these designated areas.

“The port has a mission for economic development and job creation,” Shepard noted. “This project will support our county’s important agriculture industry though creation of a local food campus. The people of Whatcom County clearly support local employers, like to eat local and keep their money in our local economy. The Local Food Campus does just that, while incubating the agriculture and food sector jobs of tomorrow.”

For community members who have been waiting for years for something remarkable to happen on their stalled central waterfront, a public project construction that could begin immediately and produce demonstrable benefit is a godsend.

“There is a clear community desire for development of the waterfront that aligns with community values,” Shepard agreed. “This project takes one of the few parcels that are not under option by Harcourt and sets an ambitious target for development and use. Development of the Millworks Project by Whatcom Community Foundation will infuse people, jobs and activity into the Waterfront District. This investment will create the excitement we need at the waterfront to spur accelerated buildout of the district.”

Past Columns
Netse Mot

September 18, 2019

A Rising Tide

September 11, 2019

The Power of Change

September 4, 2019

Hands Against Hate

August 28, 2019

Ground Zero

August 21, 2019

Fire and Frost

August 14, 2019

The Fury and the Folly

August 7, 2019

Due East II

July 31, 2019

The Real Social Network

July 17, 2019

Due East

July 3, 2019

Thin Green Line

June 26, 2019

A Journeyman’s Journey

June 12, 2019

Her Story

June 5, 2019

Do Overs

May 29, 2019

E Pluribus Unum

May 15, 2019

State of the County

May 1, 2019

A Change in Climate

April 24, 2019

Events
Today
Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Singin' in the Rain, Jr.

7:00pm|Ferndale High School

Tuesdays with Morrie and On Approval

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

And Then There Were None

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Student warriors march for climate justice

9:00am

Skagit County Garage Sale

9:00am|Skagit County Fairgrounds

Wild Things

9:30am|Whatcom Falls Park

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Voter Registration Event

11:00am|Bellingham Public Library

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

2:00pm|1750 LaBounty Dr.

Whatcom Museum Tag Sale

5:00pm|Syre Education Center

Open Mic Night

6:00pm|Deming Library

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

The Cody Rivers Show presents Baderson

6:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

The mystery and the mania

7:00pm

Trivia Night Fundraiser

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Downriver

7:00pm|Village Books

Edgar Allan

7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Godlike

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Miss Fitts

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Improv Evolution

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Tomorrow
Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Singin' in the Rain, Jr.

7:00pm|Ferndale High School

And Then There Were None

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Tuesdays with Morrie and On Approval

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Skagit County Garage Sale

9:00am|Skagit County Fairgrounds

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Museum Tag Sale

5:00pm|Syre Education Center

The Cody Rivers Show presents Baderson

6:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Godlike

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Miss Fitts

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Improv Evolution

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Hamster Endurance Runs

8:00am|Lake Padden

Giant Pumpkin Festival and Weigh-Off

9:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market2333

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

Mindful Meditation and Combining Food Wisely

9:00am|Community Food Co-op

Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live!

10:00am

Boating Center Fall Hours

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Purls & Pop-Ups Yarn Crawl

10:00am|Whatcom County

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Your Life is a Story Writer's Group

10:30am|South Whatcom Library

Persistence of Light

10:30am|Lynden Library

Backyard Fairies

11:00am|North Fork Library

Cemetery Tours

11:00am|Lynden Cemetery

One Planet

11:00am|Peace Arch Park

Fall Show Reception

2:00pm|River Gallery

Sedro-Woolley Brewfest

2:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Remembering Ella Higginson

3:00pm|Deming Library

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Gardening Rount Table

3:00pm|North Fork Library

Wayne Carter Book Signing

3:00pm|Upper Skagit Library

Artist talk with Drie Chapek

4:00pm|i.e. gallery

PechaKucha Night

5:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

International Day of Peace with WPJC

6:00pm|The Majestic

Homeless for a Night

6:00pm| Allen United Methodist Church

The Sound and the Glory

7:00pm|Village Books

Blue Abode Comedy Show

7:00pm|Blue Abode Bar

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Modern Slavery

7:30pm|Lummi Island Library

Salsa Night

9:00pm|Cafe Rumba

Sunday
Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Tuesdays with Morrie and On Approval

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

And Then There Were None

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Miss Fitts

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Hamster Endurance Runs

8:00am|Lake Padden

Boating Center Fall Hours

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Homeless for a Night

6:00pm| Allen United Methodist Church

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Oyster Run Motorcycle Rally

9:00am|Downtown Anacortes

Brunch on the Bay

10:00am|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Bellingham Veg Fest

11:00am|Depot Market Square

Walk to End Alzheimer's

12:00pm|Riverwalk Plaza

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

George Winston

2:00pm|McIntyre Hall

More than a piano man

2:00pm

Open Borders

4:00pm|Village Books

Skookum Rocks the Farm

7:00pm|Bellewood Acres

Seattle International Comedy Competition Audition Showcase

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

see our complete calendar »