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Bellingham church property to become apartments for WWU students

The former Bellingham Seventh-day Adventist Church and a community hall next door on North Forest Street will be demolished, probably this summer, to make room for an apartment building for up to 423 college students.
The former Bellingham Seventh-day Adventist Church and a community hall next door on North Forest Street will be demolished, probably this summer, to make room for an apartment building for up to 423 college students. The Bellingham Herald

An out-of-state developer has purchased the 2.87 acres where the old Seventh-day Adventist Church stands for $3.25 million and will tear down the church to build apartments for Western Washington University students.

Rael Development Corp., or Raelcorp, with offices in California and Texas, plans to demolish the 1957 church and a community center on the same lot on North Forest Street in coming months, with construction of the 142-unit student apartment building expected “in late summer,” according to a press release issued Friday, July 10, by Raelcorp.

An application for a demolition permit for 900 and 910 N. Forest St. had not been submitted as of Tuesday, July 14, an official in the city permit center said. The real estate deal closed June 30.

Construction of what’s being called Gather at Western is scheduled to be completed in time for students to move into the residences for fall quarter 2017, Raelcorp spokeswoman Karah Rathmell said.

The developer has received all environmental and design approvals for the project, the first redevelopment to be accepted under a new downtown plan, according to the developer.

The downtown plan approved by city leaders in September relaxes some development rules to encourage growth. The student housing project, which will have up to 423 residents, has no limit on the number of apartments other than what is indirectly imposed by the height restriction.

Also under the downtown plan, the building will include some dormitory-style four-bedroom, four-bathroom units, which were prohibited in a proposed university housing complex on Consolidation Avenue in the Puget neighborhood. The developer of that project, called University Ridge, backed out because it couldn't house as many students as it had planned.

A different press release from Raelcorp, also dated Friday, July 10, called Gather at Western a “luxury” development with a rooftop deck, fitness center and private courtyard.

“The project will also be designed to fit Bellingham’s distinct culture,” this press release said.

A second off-campus residence project, off Lincoln Street, is expected to open in fall 2016. The residence will be called NXNW (North by Northwest) and will offer what are described by developer CA Student Living of Chicago as “upscale” furnished apartments for up to 648 students.

The congregation at the Adventist Church has already moved out of the Forest Street church and has been meeting for the past three weeks at Baker View Christian School. The church plans to build a new chapel next summer on property it owns near the school, Pastor Brandon Korter said.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com.

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