Bellingham's 'MyDowntown' planning effort confronts crime, obstacles to development

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 8, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - City planners want to revitalize the downtown, and the public will have a chance to learn about the effort and contribute to it at an open house Wednesday, Dec. 11.

The downtown planning, branded by city officials as "myDowntown," has been ongoing for two years and is nearly ready to go to city decision makers for inclusion into the city's rules.

Planners also want to come up with ideas, with talk so far of giving some part of downtown a "town square" identity, making the Parkade more appealing, and getting more use out of Depot Market Square.

Also, planners have been discussing how to streamline the city bureaucracy to make it easier to redevelop existing buildings. They have considered ways to deter crime and other unwanted behavior, and worked to identify a retailer who would draw more shoppers downtown.

Mayor Kelli Linville issued a statement about a recent crime wave downtown, at a time when officials are trying to burnish the city's image under the MyDowntown banner.

A rash of break-ins have hit downtown shops, with 17 since August and eight in November alone, the mayor's Nov. 27 statement said.

"In the past several months, as we prepare to adopt and implement our new downtown plan, it has become increasingly clear that innovative solutions need to be found to address some of our most pressing community issues, especially downtown." Linville said in the prepared statement. "We are working hard to understand community challenges and solve them."

Besides planning increased patrols for the holidays, which Police Chief Cliff Cook promised in the city statement, officials could adopt planning strategies to deter crime, including more lighting, public art and landscaping. These are discussed in the myDowntown plan.

The plan will come before the city Planning Commission, and ultimately the City Council for final approval, in 2014. The public will have more opportunities to comment on the plan at these meetings.

'MYDOWNTOWN' MEETING

What: Open house on "myDowntown," Bellingham's effort to revitalize the city center.

When: 6 p.m. presentation, 6:30 p.m. open house, Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Where: Encore Room at Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.

More info: cob.org/downtown or call Lisa Pool, 360-778-8390.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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