Thursday, April 9, 2015

Student Housing Project Revived for Lincoln St. Development Site

CA Student Living Building at the University of Washington, Seattle

With the failure of Campus Crest last year to move forward with its plans to develop a student housing complex south of the Fred Meyer store, the Puget neighborhood breathed a sigh of relief. Neighbors who expressed the most concern, and rightly so, were the residents of the mobile home park on the east side of Lincoln St. just opposite the planned commercial/residential mixed-use site. The reprieve was predictably temporary as CA Student Living, a subsidiary of CA Ventures, plans to build a similar apartment complex but with somewhat less capacity than the Campus Crest group had planned. An article by Oliver Lazenby, entitled National Real Estate FirmRevives Apartment Project Near Fred Meyer, on the sale and project plan is available on the site of the Bellingham Business Journal. 

Lazenby writes that the new developer "plans to construct housing for hundreds of students by fall 2016, [according to] John Diedrich, CA Ventures’ VP of Investments. [Detdrich] said in late March that the company hopes to start construction in a couple weeks on 13 buildings with 230 units and about 640 bedrooms." You can read my previous articles on the Lincoln St. development plans here, here and here.

I have been in touch with the planning department. They have not as yet received any officially submitted plans. As I mentioned in several of my previous articles (linked to above), there were two residential developments/approvals plus a commercial component for the entire site. CA Ventures has purchased both residential sites. The planning department indicates that their discussions revealed the buyers intend to modify their design review approvals and make minor changes to the overall site plan. In the meantime, as indicated in the Bellingham Business Journal piece, the developers will continue work on portions of the approved design while going through a review process for the modifications.

Under the original approvals there were a total of 391 dwelling units. Under Campus Crest, 216 were slated just south of Fred Meyer with an entrance onto Lincoln and another 175 further south with an entrance on Maple St. near the carwash. The new developers may be submitting a modified plan that will create approximately 230 units for both sites, but without officially submitted plans there is no confirmation. Planning has informed the applicant that it will need to resubmit for amendments to the original design review approvals. After this material is submitted, the planners will be able to determine what public process (neighborhood meeting, public notices, etc.) may be needed.

Given the previous meetings with the public on this development, the city is well aware of the concerns expressed by the surrounding residents and neighborhood groups. It is somewhat encouraging that the new owners may actually build out a smaller overall project than previously considered. There does remain the question of the fate of the acreage known as University Ridge at the corner of Nevada and Consolidation. An attempt to build a dormitory-like complex there for 500-600 students was rejected by the neighborhood and eventually, and luckily, strangled by the Hearing Examiner. Also nearby is the nearly two acres on Ashley St. just to the east of the Lincoln St. parking lot. If rezoned to Commericial Planned (the City Council hearing is on Monday, 4 May), another mixed-use apartment/retail complex, albeit much smaller, could be built on that site. The problem is the cumulative effect of all these plans, and the ability of the public to understand and the city to react to the overall effect on the neighborhoods. 

[Note:  This article also appears on NWCitizen]


Enbient said...

Hi Zonemaven. I appreciate your update on these developments. I would like to ask you however if you would prefer urban sprawl to developing much needed apartment inventory in Bellingham's core. Where should this inventory be built if not on Lincoln. It's walkable and could allow many people to live there carless, being just a 5 minute walk to major grocery and services. I'm kind of scratching my head here.

Enbient said...

Hi Zonemaven, I appreciated your update on these developments. I'm kind of scratching my head though as to why you seem so opposed. Would you prefer urban sprawl? I personally think this Lincoln Street location is the perfect place to build much-needed apartment housing inventory. It will allow people, not just students, to live carless being within a 5 minute walk to major services like grocery. It's also just across the street from a Park and Ride which facilitates access to public transportation and also promotes carless living. Every homeowner everywhere will usually have some objection to a new development. But as people increase so too does the need for them to live somewhere. Let's just hope it's as close in as possible and not sprawling out into our wild places or taking up precious farmland.

Zonemaven said...

The original complaints regarding the Lincoln St. complex was the size. The new developers have scaled back the number of housing units to what appears to be a reasonable number of residents. Other concerns were parking, street drainage and location of access roads into and out of the apartment complex and the commercial strips along Lincoln St. not all of which have been addressed by the city. Nobody with whom I have spoken was dead set against the project of student housing in that location.

That being said, it may seem an ideal place for such infill but I think if you were a parent you might be concerned about your child living within a few feet of an interstate and all the cars, buses and trucks belching pollutants 24/7. But I guess that might be the price of preserving farmland.