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A tall student housing project is being proposed in downtown Bellingham

An artist rendering of what Western Edge might look like from the northeast. The proposal calls for two six-story buildings that would have 486 beds for student housing.
An artist rendering of what Western Edge might look like from the northeast. The proposal calls for two six-story buildings that would have 486 beds for student housing. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A major residential project that would provide beds for nearly 500 college students is being proposed in downtown district.

The plans submitted to the city calls for two six-story apartment buildings at 903-929 N. State St., currently home to several businesses including Washington Divers and The Hub Community Bike Shop.

Called the Western Edge project, the two buildings would have around 165 units, totaling 486 beds. Building-A would have around 59,530 square feet of space, while Building-B would have 183,030 square feet of finished space as well as underground parking. The buildings will also have some commercial uses and a variety of landscaping improvements and areas for bicycle parking.

In its application Spectrum Development Solutions, which bought the property in September as North State Street LLC, provided several details on why it fits with the “myDowntown” vision put together by the city.

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An artist rendering of what Western Edge might look like from the northwest. The proposal calls for two six-story buildings that would have 486 beds for student housing. City of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Western Edge is designed for students, “a demographic that typically shops and dines within walking or biking distance of their housing,” according to the application. It also noted that the project could be designed to include The Hub Community Bike Shop and a cafe along South Bay Trail, enhancing what has become known as the Alley District.

Spectrum also noted that the buildings would be designed for LEED certification, an environmentally friendly building rating system.

The Seattle company did not immediately respond Wednesday to messages seeking further details. It has done a number of residential projects as well as college classroom buildings at the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, according to its website. It also completed a feasibility study about student housing for Whatcom Community College.

The college is in the early stages of building student housing on Kellogg Road, with a possible completion date of 2020.

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A map of Bellingham, with the orange highlighted area showing where the Western Edge student housing project is being proposed. City of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Off-campus student housing has become a trend in Bellingham, with two major projects – Gather Bellingham at 900 N. Forest St. and NXNW near the Lakeway Fred Meyer – adding nearly 1,100 beds in the past two years. According to data from the City of Bellingham, permits have been approved for 1,309 apartment units in the past four years.

This surge in apartments and student housing is taking place at time when the rental vacancy rate remains low in Bellingham, hovering around 1-2 percent. According to Zillow, the median rent in Bellingham for all rental homes was at $1,714 a month in December, up 7.4 percent compared to a year earlier.

A pre-application design meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. on March 6 in the City Council Chambers at 210 Lottie St. Written comments and requests for information can be sent by email to City Planner Lindsay Kershner at lkershner@cob.org or by calling 360-778-8369.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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