By Ian Haupt
Big Macs and Crunchwrap Supremes will soon be easily available to Blaine residents, as plans for development of the former airport site show McDonald’s and Taco Bell are coming to town.
White-Leasure Development Company has submitted its building permit application to begin development of the five-acre parcel at the southeast corner of the truck route and H Street it bought from the city in September 2019. The parcel will be divided into five different lots, two of which McDonald’s and Taco Bell have spoken for. White-Leasure development operations vice president Ken Lenz said the other three lots are still for sale.
He said his goal is to have businesses open by the end of the year.
“McDonald’s and Taco Bell are eager to get going,” he said. “They want to be open before November.”
But White-Leasure is waiting on permit approval from the city before its contractor can start construction. Lenz said he hopes they can break ground by mid-February.
White-Leasure is a general contractor and real estate services company based in Boise, Idaho. It specializes in retail shopping centers, hotels and downtown mixed-use redevelopment projects, according to its website.
In fall 2019, White-Leasure bought the north end of the remaining Gateway parcel, formerly the site of the Blaine Municipal Airport, while Family Care Network (FCN) signed for the other 2.5-acre property on the south end of the block. The sale agreements for the properties became the end of an era for the old airport site.
FCN just closed the sale in June 2021 for $337,590 after it delayed negotiations and focused its resources on its other facilities during the pandemic. FCN has 15 other medical facilities in Whatcom and Skagit counties. While the development process has restarted, the timeline is still in question. FCN remains concentrated on the pandemic but is slowly moving forward with plans to fill the city’s need for a medical provider.
Meanwhile, White-Leasure is picking up the pace with its development.
The project’s general binding site plan, which includes a public hearing, has been approved. The company is awaiting approval of its specific binding site plan and land disturbance plan, which applications were determined complete on December 23, 2021, and January 14.
City community planner Stacy Clauson said the applications are currently under review and could require revisions before building begins. The revision process typically takes 90-120 days.
According to the plans submitted to the city’s planning department, McDonald’s will take a 4,600-square-foot lot and Taco Bell will have 2,300 square feet. The other three lots are planned to be 7,225, 8,400 and 5,300 square feet. Traffic will enter the retail space from Grant Avenue.
The plans currently list O’Reilly Auto Parts on the 7,225-square-foot lot, but Lenz said they have pulled out of the space. Lots 2, 4 and 5 of the plans remain open and for sale.
Blaine city manager Michael Jones said it’s always good to have more businesses coming to Blaine as they create jobs and provide services to the community. Businesses also help fund the city’s tax base, he said, which will help fund the city’s
As for being open by the end of the year, he said it’s in White-Leasure’s court. “But to have it open in 11 months’ time or so, that sounds like an achievable goal,” he said.