A new student housing complex called “Gather at Western” has begun construction and is on schedule to be ready for residents by fall quarter of 2017, project director Bill Geyer said. The complex will be located on the 900 block of North Forest Street. and is projected to house up to 417 students with suite-style living arrangements.
“Students are getting safe, high-quality living with proximity to downtown or the university,” Geyer said. “The dorms will not reach the level and quality that this provides.”
Rael Development Corp., a California-based company, bought the property from the Bellingham Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2015 and was approved to demolish the church and community center located there, according to the City of Bellingham.
The five-story building will include a two-level parking garage at the bottom, the highest bandwidth capabilities, state-of-the-art security, study rooms and recreational areas equipped for exercise and yoga, Geyer said.
Lucas Bauer lives on North Garden, adjacent to the planned location for the new housing.
“I would like to see more low-income housing for students,” Bauer said. “I want to see [Gather at Western] not managed by other rental companies that don’t treat the renters well. They kind of have a monopoly on the market.”
With the amount of students that could be moving into the proposed area, local residents could see more foot traffic than auto traffic in the area, city planner Chris Koch said.
“From that location, you can walk to the university easily,” Koch said. “Chances are you’re going to see a lot more pedestrian activity in the area. The more pedestrian activity we have will add to the liveliness and vibrancy of the streets.”
With the City of Bellingham not paying for any of the measures, the project will cost Rael Development Corp. upwards of $26 million. This is partly due to the development fees the City of Bellingham charges, which are higher than other cities, Geyer said.
Senior James Peckham said the new student housing might benefit other housing prices in the area.
“I’m an economics student and economically I think of supply and demand,” Peckham said. “If there is more supply, supply obviously being the housing, that means that the prices of housing should go down, which I’m in agreement with. Who doesn’t want to pay less for their apartment or wherever they’re living?”
Rent has not been defined for Gather at Western yet, Geyer said.