Bellingham’s Barkley Village is home to many great community assets, from a 16-screen movie theater to numerous shops, restaurants and offices. But as the area continues to change and expand, it’s worth noting that the land Barkley Village sits on could have become a much different kind of place.
In the 1970s, Jim Talbot, owner of Bellingham Cold Storage (and late father of current Barkley Village owner Stowe Talbot) purchased about 240 acres of then mostly woodland with the purpose of building a cold storage facility. Although the purchase was completed, the original plans for development never materialized.
The land sat unused until 1986, when an aerospace company then known as Heath Tecna stepped forward to buy 25 acres of land, building a facility at 3225 Woburn Street soon after. In those days, Woburn dead-ended at Illinois Street. But in 1989, the City of Bellingham made it a through street, connecting it to Sunset Drive. Barkley Boulevard, a new road, opened in the mid-1990s.
Haggen Foods came next, building a grocery store at 2900 Woburn, along with the Haggen-Talbot Building, a multi-story office building located at 2211 Rimland Drive. From the mid-1990s forward, development increased. More office space was built, followed by retail spaces in a small walking village near Haggen, complete with a clock tower and water fountain.
Suddenly, the area bustled with business. Several banks sprang up at the corners of Barkley Boulevard and Woburn, along with doctors and dentists’ offices. Condos and apartments followed in the mid-to-late 2000s, followed by the construction of Regal Cinemas Barkley Village, which opened in 2012.
Today, Talbot’s Barkley Company manages the land, and Neal Swanson, its vice president of leasing and marketing, says they have more plans for expansion.
Two office buildings – of 20,000 and 50,000 square-feet, respectively – are planned over the next five years, plus an additional apartment building, with the hope of two additional mixed-use buildings soon after. Swanson says the Barkley Village property encompasses about 250 acres, but estimates the area is only about 25 percent built-out.
The speed of expansion is market-driven, Swanson says, and in continuing to expand, they’re not trying to negatively impact other areas of Bellingham. “We don’t want to take tenants out of downtown or Fairhaven,” he says. “We want to position ourselves so that as Bellingham grows, we can accommodate the growth better than anyone.”
Asked to describe Barkley Village’s blend of commercial and residential space in one word, Swanson says it’s simply “unique,” and for a place that features a driving range next to an office building, that’s an apt descriptor.
“There aren’t many [visitors to] Bellingham who come here and don’t say ‘this is a unique place,’” he says. “We’re not on the freeway, we’re not on the water, we’re not downtown. And yet it’s working and it’s working really well.”
Over the last year-and-a-half, many spaces have been filled by businesses the village hasn’t had before, including a gym, tap house, cocktail bar and, soon, a new restaurant offering healthy fare like salads and smoothies.
The former Industrial Credit Union location, on the corner of Barkley Boulevard and Newmarket Street, is soon to feature a new home décor store called Urban Collective. Barkley Village currently features a unique mixture of restaurants, including the city’s only MOD Pizza franchise, and one of just three Scotty Browns locations outside of Canada. There are big chains like Starbucks right alongside locally-owned places like Jalapenos, Bob’s Burgers & Brew and Woods Coffee.
The creation of many new community events is something they’re currently working on, says Swanson, with the goal of giving the village a true neighborhood feel where people live, work and play. “We are an urban village in Bellingham that’s doing things in a clean, safe, architecturally interesting way,” Swanson says.
This year has already started out very well, as Barkley Village hosted its first-ever “wine walk,” an event that Swanson says drew over 400 people to taste wines from across the region. Barkley Village’s next event is an April Brews’ Day pre-party hosted by Overflow Taps. Taking place from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. on April 28, there’ll be beer, live music and cornhole boards.
The summer continues with events on Barkley’s Village Green, including Lydia Place’s popular “Handbags for Housing” fundraiser on June 7, a classic car show on July 22 and an August 11 “Concert on the Green,” featuring live music, breweries and food trucks. September 22 welcomes fall with the village’s second annual “Soktoberfest,” a block party-style Oktoberfest celebration again hosted by Overflow Taps.
All in all, there are plenty of fantastic reasons to stop into one of Bellingham’s most vibrant and fastest-growing neighborhoods.