Designs for a new 419-tenant apartment complex for 910 N. Forest St. will be sent to the city planning director for final approval. The complex, which is aimed at students, would replace the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, according to the Design Review Board meeting.
A meeting of the Design Review Board on Tuesday, April 21, examined pros and cons of construction. Property owner Lawrence Rael of Rael Development Corporation said the location will be optimal for students as it is close to both Western’s campus and downtown.
Western freshman Lauren Hagen said the complex could offer cheap off-campus housing without a large commute. This could help relieve stress from students looking for housing.
Bellingham community members also had an opportunity to voice their thoughts during the board meeting. One concern was the potential for traffic and parking issues additional students would create.
David McGarrity, a Bellingham resident, voiced his concerns about the lack of parking that Bellingham residents already deal with. McGarrity said the planned 279 parking spaces will not be enough for 419 tenants.
Western freshman Annalise Muscari echoed Hagen’s comments and said the community should be used to having students around and should be open to the project, especially if it means making use of property that isn’t being utilized.
The historic nature of the Sehome neighborhood is also a concern. The new complex will be visible from N. Forest Street, as well as North Garden Street and is planned to be more modern than the other homes on the block.
McGarrity said North Garden Street is a particularly historic area of Bellingham and such a structure would not fit in as well as the rest of the homes.
Architect for the project Bill Geyer said he plans to compliment the design of the Sehome neighborhood through textures, colors and a low-slope roof style for the complex.
The seven-story structure would have 142 units with 419 beds, parking for 279 vehicles and room for 234 bikes, according to the Design Plan Set. The complex would have studio, two-bedroom and four-bedroom units.
Rael Development Corporation specializes in student-purposed housing with projects across the country, Rael said.
The development is not affiliated with Western, Director of University Communications Paul Cocke said in an email. Rael Development Corporation focuses on safety and security with all of their projects, Rael said. Security cameras, outdoor lighting and an on-site security guard are features Rael listed as important to his projects.
The project is still in early stages of development. The first pre-application meeting was on March 21, 2011 where the plans were presented at a Sehome Neighborhood Association meeting, city planner Christopher Koch said.
The City Planning Director has 120 days after receiving the application to make a decision. If approved, Rael Development Corporation can begin applying for building permits, Koch said.