The fields in north Bellingham have long represented an area where future city growth will take place.
While property has steadily been developed in the years following the last economic recession, a flurry of activity is now expected to dramatically change that area in the next two years.
Residential is the big driver, with projects in the design stage or underway that will add hundreds more units to Cordata and Meridian neighborhoods this year and next. Government agencies are trying to keep up with the changes by planning more infrastructure projects, particularly with traffic.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the projects in the next two years, with a broader look at why these are happening:
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CORDATA PARKWAY WILL BE CHANGING AS MORE RESIDENTIAL COMES IN
When the Cordata area was being designed by developer Trillium Corp. in the 1980s, the focus was to develop a business park with industrial buildings and warehouses, according to documents from the City of Bellingham. That meant Cordata Parkway could turn into a major thoroughfare, so a portion was built to have four lanes to handle the truck and car traffic.
Market forces dictated a different use for that area, however. After several years of very little residential construction following the global financial meltdown in 2008, Bellingham found itself in a housing crunch. Home prices and rent in the last few years have jumped significantly, partly because of low inventory. The market has responded with a wide range of residential projects, many of which are near the Cordata Parkway.
Now that the area appears destined to be mostly residential, the city is making some significant changes to Cordata Parkway between Kellogg Road north to Horton Road. A roundabout will be constructed at Cordata Parkway and Stuart Road this summer, while pedestrian crossings are in the works in 2019. The city is also looking to reduce the four lanes to two in order to install bike lanes on each side. That reduction in lanes could also happen in 2019.
The plans were discussed with residents at a neighborhood meeting earlier this month. Some of the discussion from neighbors was about Cordata Parkway, with several saying cars were going too fast on that stretch of road. Some had mentioned that street racing was taking place in the evenings.
At the meeting, Chris Comeau, the city’s transportation planner, said the improvements will have a traffic calming impact, something that’s important as the Cordata Community Park is developed and more pedestrians use the area. Work on the park, which would include a playground and spray area, is expected next year.
Ruby Gardner, one of the attendees at the neighborhood meeting, said she is happy with what she has seen and is particularly excited about the plans for the park.
“I like that the city is recognizing that this area needs services,” said Gardner, adding she hopes a library is something that will be considered for the neighborhood.
NEW DEVELOPMENT WILL MEAN A CHANGE IN TRAFFIC PATTERNS
With more people in the north part of Bellingham, the city has been working on ways to lessen the traffic congestion on the main north-south roads as well as West Bakerview Road. To do so, the city is planning for more east-west street connections.
Mahogany Avenue, which is scheduled to be constructed this year, is going in behind the new Costco. It will connect Northwest Avenue and Pacific Highway, which should help with congestion, particularly on West Bakerview Road in front of the store.
In 2019 West Horton Road is scheduled to be extended west, connecting with Aldrich Road and giving drivers on Meridian Street another way to get to that part of town. A roundabout is also expected to be built at the Horton-Cordata intersection along with some bike lanes. Farther in the future, Horton is expected to be extended to Northwest Avenue.
As more traffic is projected for Aldrich Road, the city is also working on improving that road. This year it will be putting in sidewalks and bike lanes on the road, particularly around Cordata Elementary School, making it more safe for the students in that area.
BAKERVIEW ROAD AREA WILL CONTINUE ADD COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS
West Bakerview Road has had plenty of changes the past few years with new hotels and the Costco store. That change is expected to continue.
Comeau said there has been an uptick in preliminary plans being submitted along Bakerview, particularly between Interstate 5 going east to Bellis Fair. Restaurants, retail and residential projects appear to be among the most common, but it will become more apparent as projects move from the preliminary stage to the building permit phase.
The city continues to study the area on West Bakerview Road to see what improvements can be made. Comeau said the city is looking at the possibility of installing more medians to cut down on the vehicle collisions in the area.