By John Stark
As I worked my way through the draft plan for the long-debated redevelopment of the Bellingham waterfront — released Thursday, Nov. 15–one thing struck me: Where are the dates?
For years, port and city officials and their consultants have come up with schemes and visions and draft plans for waterfront redevelopment, accompanied by timelines that were always billed as tentative, but still specific.
In the early stages of the planning process, port and city officials declared they could have a new Laurel Street Bridge in place by late 2007. In 2008, then-Mayor Dan Pike said the Laurel Street Bridge was “at least five years away.” The project soon disappeared from plans and schemes.
As recently as May 2012, city officials were saying they expected to build a new street into the northeastern end of the waterfront area by the end of 2015, converting Central Avenue into a bike and pedestrian route. That’s still the plan, but no date is attached.
The port’s vision of a marina inside the Georgia-Pacific treatment lagoon is still alive, but again, there is no date set for starting or finishing that project.
At this point, port and city officials say that public investment in parks, streets and utilities will move hand-in-hand with private investment. That’s a shift between the “if we build it they will come” philosophy that seemed to underly past public discussions about waterfront redevelopment.
We should get an early indication of developer interest and the likely pace of redevelopment after the port starts the solicitation process for the Granary and the area around it in the next few months.