Student-friendly apartment complex in Bellingham put on hold

Apartments that would cater to Western Washington University students may not be built on Lincoln Street south of Lakeway Drive, after the company developing the project announced it was ceasing all construction and development to shore up its finances.

The suspension of the off-campus housing project will not idle all 24 acres between the Lakeway Fred Meyer and Maple Street. The principal property owner, Stebner Real Estate, Inc., still plans to develop the land fronting Lincoln Street as retail.

Stebner Real Estate is listed on the Whatcom County assessor’s website as the owner of 21 1/2 acres on that stretch of Lincoln Street. The company’s president, Derek Stebner of Bellingham, hung up on a reporter seeking comment.

Jason Loeb, a real estate agent with Windemere, confirmed the Lincoln Street frontage was available for retail development. One building, called Lincoln Commercial Center, is already planned and seeking tenants, Loeb said.

All plans to build apartments on the west side of the property, between Lincoln Creek and Interstate 5, are on hold. One year ago, Stebner went public with plans to build 175 apartment units in the southwest corner of the property, and Campus Crest announced 216 off-campus student apartments for the northwest corner.

Campus Crest declined to comment on the ultimate fate of its local project, “The Grove at Bellingham,” after announcing Nov. 4 that it would be “discontinuing all construction and development” to improve its outlook for investors.

The Grove at Bellingham had been accepting lease applications for fall 2015. An email sent to a Bellingham agent for The Grove was not returned.

All told, housing in the Puget neighborhood for more than 1,000 college students or other renters was taken off the drawing board this year. In addition to the Lincoln Street apartments, a student-housing complex on Consolidation Avenue with as many as 528 bedrooms was canceled in March. The developer backed out after the city imposed restrictions that reduced the number of students that could live there.