BELLINGHAM - A local developer expects to start this year on a new park and a development with space for industry, retail and more than 300 homes in the Cordata area.
The ground could be cleared as early as the third quarter of 2013 on part of the 55-acre development site, east of Cordata Parkway, between Stuart and Horton roads, said property owner Blair Murray of Tin Rock Development, Inc.
According to city documents, the development is designed to include retail convenient to pedestrians and transit, and will make room for businesses that will create more than 200 jobs. The 323 residential units will be a combination of single homes and multi-family buildings, Murray said.
In part to compensate for the loss of more than 10 acres of wetland habitat, Murray will create wetlands and build part of a trail off site, on 75 acres just outside the city to be called Bear Creek Preserve Trail Park.
"Before I can turn a shovel of dirt in Cordata, I need to begin the wetland mitigation site," Murray said.
The new park will be on city-owned land on the northeast corner of Northwest Avenue and Waldron Road.
"We're trying to get a trail corridor from Cordata out to the Northwest soccer fields. This is on the way," said Leslie Bryson, the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department's design development manager.
The development, to be called Cordata Center, will be built on properties that failed to develop as an industrial park, according to a rezone application Tin Rock filed with the city in 2009. (Early drafts of project documents referred to the center as "Cordata Urban Village.") By the end of 2009, the city had rezoned 35 acres within the 55-acre site from industrial to mixed use.
Only recently did the project clear another significant hurdle.
Cordata Center passed a preliminary environmental review without needing a more in-depth impact study, the city said on Nov. 6. The review required on- and off-site wetland improvements, and possibly traffic lights at two intersections on Cordata Parkway.
Wetland destruction on the development site, and the wetlands created elsewhere, require city, state and federal approval. The state Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should sign off on the project, Murray said, now that it has passed the city's environmental review.
The corps is requesting more information on Tin Rock's federal application, said Patricia Graesser, corps public information supervisor. Murray said he expected that.
"We have been engaged with the Army Corps of Engineers and Ecology from the inception of this project," he said.
The Cordata Neighborhood Association president is more interested in traffic congestion than new park space. Traffic lights or some other traffic-control measure at Cordata Parkway and Stuart isn't required until congestion reaches level "E" on a national traffic scale that ranges from "A" to "F," with "F" being extreme congestion.
This doesn't sit well in a community that already has a traffic problem.
"It's got to fail first - a level of service that's failed," association President Steve Crooks said. "This is where the neighborhood is coming from: We don't want to hit failure first and then have action implemented."
"The urban neighborhood itself ... I don't think anyone has any objection to that. It's just that we want to be prepared for when it does happen," Crooks said.