BELLINGHAM - Retail giant Costco is envisioning a 161,893-square-foot store with a six-island gas station and about 800 parking spaces at a potential site along West Bakerview Road, near Interstate 5.
The company submitted a pre-application packet to the city earlier this spring, and a rendering of the early design was posted on the social media site Reddit earlier this week.
A pre-application packet is an early-stage step in the process so the company can learn about what the city would require, said Jeff Thomas, director of the city planning department. The step also gives a company a better idea of what financial investment will be needed before committing to the project.
Costco has been exploring a new location because company officials have said the current store on Meridian Street is too small for demand.
The packet provides some insight into how Costco might address traffic impacts if it moves forward to build the store. Roads would be developed on the north and east side of the property, and street improvements would be made on nearby Pacific Highway.
The proposed road on the east side, labeled Dover Road, would not connect with the nearby road that goes into a residential subdivision. It appears on the rendering that the road on the north side of the property, labeled Division Road, would be developed later and eventually connect with Northwest Drive.
Potential traffic congestion in that area is a key component of the discussions, said Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville. Informal discussions between the city and Costco have taken place the past year.
"Our main concern is making sure improvements around the site are made to help with the traffic flow," Linville said.
She noted that an upcoming road project should alleviate some of the current traffic issues in that area. The freeway overpass will get a second westbound lane, the west Fred Meyer exit will get a second left-turn lane, and a right-turn lane will be added to Airport Drive at Maplewood Avenue to improve traffic flow to the northbound I-5 on-ramp.
The road project is expected to be completed later this year.
Along with the Costco building and gas station, the rendering indicates the possibility of a retail building on the southwest side of the 18-acre site. The 800 parking spaces meets the requirement of what's needed for a retail center of such size, Thomas said.
At 161,893 square feet, the proposed Costco store would be similar in size to the Bakerview Fred Meyer, estimated at 166,919 square feet. The current Bellingham Costco is estimated at 133,233 square feet.
That part of Bellingham is one of the busier parts of the city for commercial development. Two hotels are under construction nearby, and Bellingham International Airport is undergoing a major expansion.
At this point Costco officials have not commented about the new site. Earlier this year, Costco spokesman Joel Benoliel said the company would not comment about the potential project until it was ready to submit building permit applications.
Thomas said the next step for Costco would be to organize a neighborhood meeting for public feedback, then file for building permit applications.
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