Bellingham City Council hears proposal for redevelopment of Old Town

Tara Sundin (left) presenting and Mayor Linville (right) reviewing map that shows where Panberry’s property is and where the city’s property is located. // photo by Zoe Buchli

By Zoe Buchli

During a public hearing on Monday, Jan. 28, Bellingham City Council members heard a proposal to facilitate the redevelopment in Old Town through an agreement between the city and Parberry’s Inc. and Associate Entities, the owners of Northwest Recycling, Inc..

In a 6-1 vote, the council voted to move the proposed agreement to the Committee of the Whole meeting on Feb. 11 for further review.

Community and Economic Development Manager Tara Sundin said the agreement would include the relocation of Northwest Recycling, Inc., which is currently located at 1419 C St.. and in its place the addition of up to 1,000 housing units and 400,000 square feet of commercial space.

In her presentation, Sundin shared a map outlining Parberry’s Inc. property, which takes up six blocks between C Street, D Street and E Street. The property the city owns is directly across at West Holly Street and C Street.

Sundin said Old Town has 82 housing units, 20 of which are permanently affordable, making affordable units 24 percent of the total number of housing units.

There are amenities and infrastructure already built into Old Town, including 13 acres of park, and there are currently more utilities available than are needed, she said.

People want to get involved in developing downtown, Sundin said, but there is not much property on the market, and there isn’t very much like what the Parberrys have on the market.

Sundin said the proposal would cost the city about $2.5 million.

“We’re really trying to activate this part of our city,” Sundin said. “We’re providing an investment in the infrastructure.”

Kevin Moore, CEO of Northwest Recycling Inc., said he envisions a strong pedestrian footprint in the area.

“[We see Old Town] as a place where people live, can walk to work, shop, can go have a drink, go to the park, go to the waterfront,” Moore said. “All within a five minute walk.”

Community member Michael Chiavario, who has lived in Bellingham since 1968, said the city and Parberry’s Inc. should aim to increase the percentage of affordable units from 24 to 50 or 60 percent.

“Please include long-term permanently affordable housing in this plan,” he said.

Old Town is also currently home to the Lighthouse Mission, which has been engaged in homeless services for 95 years, Executive Director of Lighthouse Mission Ministries Hans Erchinger-Davis said.

According to Erchinger-Davis, Northwest Recycling Inc. wants to maximize land values, and the corporation has told the city that they will not move if Bellingham allows the mission’s drop-in center to stay in the neighborhood.

He said the mission serves 200-300 people a day, and is the hub for anything to do with homelessness in the area.

“I support the development of Old Town, but not at the expense of the homeless,” he said.

Moore said this agreement only works as a public private partnership.

“It’s extremely difficult to make any kind of large-scale development pencil out these days. Both sides do have skin in the game,” he said.

Moore said Northwest Recycling will bear the costs to relocate and redevelop their property.

Planning and Community Development Department Director Rick Sepler said it’s unclear if the agreement will go to a vote, and there will be more discussion at the next general city council meeting.

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