Real estate’s history on display along the Strait of Juan de Fuca


Greetings from the Strait of Juan de Fuca!

As I traverse the picturesque towns bordering this significant waterway along the U.S. and Canadian border, I can’t help but marvel at the unique blend of past and present that shapes the landscapes around me.

From Sequim’s lavender fields to the quaint charm of Whidbey Island, and from the rugged beauty of Port Angeles to the Victorian allure of Port Townsend, each place has its story to tell.

As I stand on the shores of the strait, it strikes me that this is not just any body of water. Unlike the Bering Strait or the Strait of Gibraltar, the Strait of Juan de Fuca holds a distinct peculiarity. It serves as the international boundary between Canada and the United States.

In 1787, the maritime fur trader Charles William Barkley named it after Juan de Fuca, the Greek navigator who embarked on a Spanish expedition in 1592 to seek the legendary Strait of Anián.

But you may be wondering, what on earth does all of this have to do with commercial real estate? Bear with me as I weave the threads of history, geography and property together.

The towns that line the Strait of Juan de Fuca have witnessed a rich tapestry of events, with maritime trade being a common theme in their stories. The influx of traders and settlers in the past laid the groundwork for the thriving communities we see today. Sequim, known for its lavender farms and breathtaking landscapes, has seen a surge in tourism, leading to growing demand for commercial properties like boutique hotels, quaint cafes and craft shops that cater to visitors seeking a slice of tranquility. That’s what lured us here as my wife visited Sequim a few years ago to dye cloth.

Whidbey Island, with its idyllic surroundings and artistic vibe, has also become a magnet for tourists and creative minds alike. The real estate market here has adapted to the influx of artists, writers and nature enthusiasts, with charming studios, workshops and eco-friendly accommodations becoming the new norm.

In Port Angeles, where the Olympic mountains meet the sea, maritime history is still palpable. While the shipping industry has evolved, the waterfront properties have retained their allure. With breathtaking views of the strait and the nearby islands, developers are keen on creating modern commercial spaces that respect the town’s history and unique setting.

Port Townsend’s well-preserved Victorian architecture takes us back in time, but the real estate market here is far from stagnant. The town’s heritage buildings have found new life as boutique shops, galleries, and restaurants, each property contributing to the vibrant local economy.

Seattle, the urban heartbeat of the region, showcases a different facet of commercial real estate. As a bustling metropolis, the city boasts an array of high-rise office buildings, tech hubs and commercial centers. I’ve not seen the number of cranes rising from down below in any major city recently. The economic ties between Seattle and neighboring Canadian cities have further fueled cross-border investments, making the region a melting pot of cultures and business ventures.

Next week, as we sail toward Alaska on the Quantum of the Seas, the significance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca becomes clearer. Its history has shaped the present, and that includes the world of commercial real estate. From quaint towns preserving their past while embracing the future to vibrant cities that thrive on innovation and international connections, the strait’s influence reverberates through the properties that shape these communities.

So, the next time you set foot in a historic building turned modern commercial space or enjoy a relaxing retreat by the water, take a moment to appreciate the hidden stories woven into the fabric of the place. History may be in the past, but its echoes are forever present in the towns and properties along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at [email protected] or 714.564.7104.

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