Developer abandons plans to build 500-unit dorm in Bellingham's Puget neighborhood

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 4, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - A dormitory complex for about 500 college students proposed for Puget neighborhood will not be built, the developer said in an email to the city Planning and Community Development Department.

The development called University Ridge - four buildings with up to 528 bedrooms on what is now 11 forested acres at 4413 Consolidation Ave. - received approval from the city hearing examiner in October, but it was the hearing examiner's ruling that caused Ambling University Development Group of Georgia to back out.

"We will not be moving forward with the development of the University Ridge project in Bellingham," Ambling managing partner Charles Perry wrote last month in an email to city planner Kathy Bell. "Unfortunately, we have not been able to make the numbers work, despite scrubbing very thoroughly numerous development options, once the four-bedroom/four-bath unit was eliminated as a unit configuration option for us. The decision by the hearing examiner on this matter was too much to overcome for this specific use on this specific site."

In October, Hearing Examiner Dawn Sturwold limited each dorm-style unit to no more than three bedrooms and three bathrooms, so the complex could be converted into traditional apartments if the student-housing model wasn't working.

Sturwold said in her decision that the development, as initially proposed with 576 bedrooms, was not a good fit for the neighborhood, which is mostly single-family homes.

Some neighbors vocally opposed the project, citing anticipated traffic and parking problems, noise and loss of privacy.

"I am incredibly relieved that this project is not going through," Nevada Street resident Mona Danforth said in an email to The Bellingham Herald. "I am thankful for this extension of time to enjoy the beauty of the trees up there and know that the creatures that inhabit that area will not be driven out right now (maybe later, but not today). I am thankful to be able to safely continue to walk the neighborhood and recognize the people who live there."

Another project in Puget neighborhood for more than 500 college students, called "The Grove at Bellingham," is in the early review stage with city planners. The Grove would be built on Lincoln Street, on an undeveloped lot just south of the Lakeway Fred Meyer.

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

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