Two new waterfront designs, but which one works best? The port wants your opinion

Port of Bellingham officials are proposing two plans to develop the former Georgia-Pacific mill site on Bellingham’s downtown waterfront.
Port of Bellingham officials are proposing two plans to develop the former Georgia-Pacific mill site on Bellingham’s downtown waterfront. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Two new options for revamping Bellingham’s waterfront district are on the table and officials want to know what the public thinks about them.

The two options unveiled at a Dec. 5 Port Commission meeting are meant to address some of the concerns raised by the public about proposed changes introduced in October, said Brian Gouran, the Port of Bellingham’s Waterfront District project manager.

One option is nicknamed the Waypoint Connection and attempts to improve pedestrian flow throughout the property. With this design Waypoint Park, currently under construction on the Whatcom Creek Waterway, becomes a more central feature – marking the starting point for park goers to either wander along the waterway or cross Granary Avenue and walk in a park setting most of the way down to Cornwall Beach. It also means more of the larger building development would take place in the central part of the district, Gouran said.

The second option is nicknamed the Maple Street Connection and more closely resembles the original proposed changes from Harcourt Developments, the Irish-based firm that is handling the first phase of development. This design would feature a larger public plaza at Bay Street, but the serpentine park would cut across the central part of the district. Gouran said this plan creates different ways for the public to connect with the park rather than a single flow seen in the Waypoint option.

Both plans include a parking garage at the Bay Street entrance rather than a large bridge in the current city plan. It still will have the same potential uses and zoning.

Waterfront Option A
This option is nicknamed the Waypoint Connection, which makes the park more central to pedestrian traffic from the Bay Street entrance. This plan also has more flow for pedestrians interested in walking to Cornwall Beach. Port of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald
Waterfront Option B
This plan, nicknamed the Maple Street Connection, features a larger public plaza compared to the Waypoint Connection. It also places the park in the more central part of the waterfront district. Port of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The port is seeking public comment on the plans before commissioners make a final selection at their Feb. 6 meeting. The selection needs to happen at that time so port staff can have enough time to submit an amendment proposal to the city before an April 1 deadline.

Along with informal question-and-answer sessions and presentations in the coming weeks, the public will have several options to comment. The first chance to talk about the two design options will be at the Dec. 19 port commission meeting at 1801 Roeder Ave. during the 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. public comment periods. The public is encouraged to arrive before the meeting starts at 4 p.m., when port and city staff will be on hand to answer questions. An open house also is being organized for some time in the first two weeks of January.

The public can also send in written comments either by mail to 1801 Roeder Ave. or by email to waterfront@portofbellingham.com.

At the Dec. 5 meeting, commissioners appeared open to both options. Michael McAuley, who was visibly upset about changes first proposed in October, said the designs flowed a little better than the previous plan. Bobby Briscoe, the only returning commissioner following the November election, said the new designs were an improvement.

McAuley and Dan Robbins will end their terms at the end of the year and will be replaced by Ken Bell and Michael Shepard.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz