Business

Here’s what’s happening as the Fountain District urban village takes shape

Business owners are worried about the Fountain District’s future

As businesses close and buildings sit vacant, business owners are wondering what's next for Bellingham's Fountain District. Now, the City of Bellingham has a plan to help revitalize the district.
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As businesses close and buildings sit vacant, business owners are wondering what's next for Bellingham's Fountain District. Now, the City of Bellingham has a plan to help revitalize the district.

After years of planning, the Fountain District is starting to see the residential component of urban village planning along Meridian Street.

Three projects are in the planning/permit stage in a one block area, adding 32 residential units and commercial space:

At 2605 Meridian St. plans are in the works to demolish a former coffee stand and put in a three-story mixed-use building with 16 apartment units, a ground floor live/work unit and commercial space. In early February there was a public meeting with the city’s Design Review Board. A construction timeline has not yet been established, Fred Wagner of Grinstad & Wagner Architects said in an interview.

A three-story mixed use building called Fountain Flats is in the permitting stage. The building will have eight residential units, and commercial space at 2524 Meridian St. It will replace a former single-family house that was converted into an office building. Construction is expected to start later this year, said Wagner, the architect on the project.

It’s a similar project next door at 2522 Meridian St., where a three-story, mixed-use building is planned. A meeting before the city’s Design Review Board was scheduled for earlier this month to review the project, which includes eight residential units, a live/work unit and commercial space. Construction could begin as soon as next month, Wagner said.

One other nearby residential project currently under construction is Broadway Station, which is at the corner of Broadway and Dupont streets. It’s a 39-unit, three-story apartment building with about 6,500 square feet of commercial space.

Changes coming to Fountain Plaza

Also in the works are changes to the Fountain Plaza near the RE Store. Originally a stopping point for animals and livestock to access water while traveling through the area, renovation plans will give it a different look, marking it as the gateway to the district. The new design, which includes new lighting and changes to the fountain, has already gone through a public review process and is expected to be constructed this summer, Darby Cowles, a senior planner for the city, said in an email.

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Improvements to the Fountain Plaza are part of the City of Bellingham’s Fountain District Urban Village Plan. City of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Construction projects in urban growth villages have a slightly different process compared to those in other parts of the city. The three Meridian Street projects in the Fountain District went through a public design review process to help come up with buildings that help fit with the urban village plan adopted for the area in 2010. The goal is to create a neighborhood that has a better mix of commercial, residential and service uses and provides amenities within walking distance, as well as other features, according to city documents.

Wagner said adding in extra review work does take more time to get a project started, but for the property owners, there are some incentives, including flexibility with parking spaces and tax breaks.

“It’s encouraging to see this happening,” Wagner said.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.
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