Significant changes are being proposed to the waterfront redevelopment plan.
Staff from the Port of Bellingham met with officials from the city and Harcourt Developments on Monday to address some issues they have with the current plan for the waterfront district, which was formerly home to the Georgia-Pacific pulp and tissue facility. Reaching an agreement on a new idea, the three groups presented it at a Port Commission meeting on Tuesday evening.
The biggest change in the long-term plan is to the park, known unofficially as Bay or Serpentine. The original plan would have the park start near the Granary building and snake around the property near Cornwall Avenue down to the Bellingham Shipping Terminal, creating a trail connection to Cornwall Beach.
Port commissioners were presented Tuesday with a different option in order to solve two problems. Staff proposed having the park/trail come up from the shipping terminal in basically the same path, but make a turn near the remaining structures of the Boardmill and Alcohol buildings toward the Whatcom Waterway – it will not extend to the Granary building. Instead it appeared more park would be added near the Whatcom Waterway.
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Since the changes just came together Monday, there were only rudimentary sketches on what it might look like. Officials indicated that more detailed drawings and renderings will be prepared and presented to the public as they refine their proposed idea. The initial sketches suggest a more urban plaza look to the park area.
Explaining this to the public in the coming days and weeks will be important, said Port Commissioner Mike McAuley.
“This is very different,” McAuley said at the meeting.
The proposed changes address two problems Harcourt and Port staff saw with the previous plan: Access to the property and saving the Alcohol building.
Port Planning Director Sylvia Goodwin said a third entrance is needed, not only to avoid traffic choke points at the other two entrances (Laurel Street and Granary Avenue) but also to create a direct connection to downtown. The proposed idea is to extend Bay Street across Chestnut Street and build a vista overlooking the property, possibly on top of a parking garage – visitors would have a good view of the area, park their cars in the garage and take the stairs or elevators down to an urban plaza area on the property.
Harcourt has expressed a desire to refurbish the Alcohol building, possibly into office space. The original plans had the building removed.
One other addition was a large building near the Bay Street extension that would be used for either student housing or a retirement facility.