Puget neighbors to consider another 500-unit housing project for Bellingham college students

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 18, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - A second apartment complex to house more than 500 college students is planned for Puget Neighborhood, but at this early stage "The Grove at Bellingham" has not generated as much opposition as the first proposal, called University Ridge.

The Grove, 216 units for 584 students, would be built on Lincoln Street on an undeveloped lot just south of the Lakeway Fred Meyer. The development is intended to cater to Western Washington University students, but other people also could rent there.

The latest student-housing proposal, from Campus Crest Communities of Charlotte, N.C., will be introduced at a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, in the cafeteria at Carl Cozier Elementary School, 1330 Lincoln St. People should park on the north side of the building, off Potter Street.

In a separate phase of the development, 175 apartments would be built off Maple Street. A third phase would add 55,000 square feet of retail. All phases should be open by 2017, according to the project's traffic study.

University Ridge, on Consolidation Avenue, received permit approvals last month for 528 beds. Neighbors raised concerns about noise, traffic and other potential nuisances coming from that project, which would be nearly surrounded by single-family homes. The city hearing examiner rejected the original proposal, which had a capacity of 576 students, deciding not to allow four-bedroom, boarding room-style apartments.

The initial reaction to The Grove has been more accepting, apart from traffic concerns expressed by residents of Lakeway Mobile Estates, across Lincoln Street.

"All indications are this is a much more suitable location for such a facility," said Gaythia Weis, president of Puget Neighborhood Association.

The Lincoln Street property is zoned for "planned commercial" use, which may include apartments.

The traffic study for the Lincoln Street project requires sidewalks in front of the development and a center turn lane on Lincoln.

Once all of the phases are open, the stop sign at Maple Street would receive an "F" grade, according to the traffic study. That means a typical wait to enter Lincoln Street would be more than 50 seconds. The city's lowest acceptable grade is "E."

The city has no immediate plans to upgrade that intersection.

"Some day in the future there may be a need to put a signal in at Lincoln and Maple, but it appears that's not needed in the short term," said Chris Comeau, city transportation planner.

Cascade Engineering Group, a local firm working on the project, describes The Grove as "upscale" with a swimming pool, game rooms, gym and tanning salon.

Similar developments have been built in other regional college towns: Ellensburg, Pullman and Cheney, and in Moscow, Idaho. Campus Crest is a private developer not associated with WWU.

Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2298.

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