Future waterfront development in Bellingham

One of the things that really excites me about Bellingham is the downtown waterfront transformation that's underway.

Bellingham's roots are in the timber/logging industry, as well as fisheries and coal. The massive impact of the Georgia-Pacific pulp and tissue mill on our city's waterfront is undeniable. Records from the Georgia-Pacific Corporation (formerly the Puget Sound Pulp and Timber company) date back to 1892. It was here in the very beginning.

 (Photo credit: Galen Biery Photographs, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, WWU)

(Photo credit: Galen Biery Photographs, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, WWU)

G-P has since left, but the mill's legacy impacts our waterfront even today. A massive effort to clean up environmental contamination has been underway since the late 90's. Development has, for all intents and purposes, been on hold until the state deems each area safe for human health. We're getting closer to tangible progress, evidenced by the capping and flattening of the west part of the G-P cleanup site last summer, and the historic Granary building renovation that's currently underway.

 In 2015, I helped plan an event to celebrate progress on the waterfront.

In 2015, I helped plan an event to celebrate progress on the waterfront.

The city of Bellingham and Port of Bellingham have been busy conspiring with architects, developers and even artists to reenvision this entire waterfront area. Efforts to incorporate some of the industrial history led to a recent solicitation of bids to transform the "Acid Ball," a spherical structure that used acid to break wood down into pulp, into an artistic relic for the downtown waterfront. A proposal out of Seattle's Mutuus Studio won. Their renderings of the artifact installation in the new Whatcom Waterway park, scheduled to open in 2017, make me excited.

 Rendering of the "Acid Ball" and the soon-to-open Whatcom Waterway park on the Bellingham waterfront. (Photo credit: Mutuus Studios)

Rendering of the "Acid Ball" and the soon-to-open Whatcom Waterway park on the Bellingham waterfront. (Photo credit: Mutuus Studios)

Why am I excited? For starters, the city's vision for more public access on the waterfront, and a better connection between the waterfront and the downtown core, will likely bring vibrancy to downtown Bellingham. Second, a focused effort around economic development and a seemingly clear strategy to attract solid industries is promising. Over the years, the energy in Bellingham's downtown core has ebbed and flowed — but the future looks bright.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR REAL ESTATE?

My opinion that Bellingham is just being discovered — and that population growth and therefore rising home prices will only continue. We live in a beautiful town with access to the San Juan Islands, Mt. Baker, Vancouver B.C., and countless parks and trail systems. With a strengthened economy and downtown core, we are perfectly poised for more growth. So brace yourselves Bellinghamsters, we might not be the "city of subdued excitement" for much longer.