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The Army Street Project

Anchoring Downtown and Old Town.

The Army Street Project is a working title referring to the potential assembly and redevelopment of several small, separately owned properties, including a 0.25 acre vacant parcel owned by the BPDA, within the block of land located within the City's Old Town District and bounded by West Holly Street, Central Avenue, Bay Street and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad tracks. The City of Bellingham acquired this parcel in 1961 and conveyed the property to the BPDA in March 2010. The Army Street Project is envisioned as a market-driven, themed, master-planned complex of integrated mixed uses that would function as a destination and activity center, intended to support investment and activity in its environs. A well-planned and executed development of this strategic location would provide a key "place-making element" interconnecting the Downtown District and the Old Town District, and provide for a connection with future development in the Waterfront District.

The Army Street Project is ranked as the number one priority for the BPDA largely because it's at the hub juncture of the three BPDA Priority Areas defined in the City-BPDA Operating Agreement as priority areas for BPDA operations (Downtown District, Old Town District, and Waterfront District), within easy walking distance and interconnecting all three districts. This project would be a significant step in the implementation of the City's Old Town Sub-Area Plan adopted in March 2008.

The BPDA's strategy is to combine the BPDA-owned parcel in a voluntary assemblage unifying and combining the interests of six other owners of small parcels comprising most of this strategically located block. The development potential and feasibility of these separate parcels, if they could be or were developed separately and independently, is limited by such factors as parcel size and configuration, access and terrain constraints, and the availability of parking. Consolidation of the separate properties would create a larger parcel capable of supporting and enhancing the feasibility of a significant redevelopment project capitalizing on the potential value of this strategic location.

Negotiations involving the owners of these multiple parcels to effect their assembly in a voluntary consolidation of the several individual property interests is underway. Formalizing the framework for the consolidation of the participating properties and the management and governance of these combined interests is targeted for completion by the end of 2013. Due diligence and feasibility research, with continued work on plans for the Army Street Project, would follow in 2014 and early 2015.

A Concept Development Phase Plan reflecting the preference of the participating property owners, in consideration of the contribution of property to the venture, and reflecting compliance with the Old Town Sub-Area Plan, has been prepared in collaboration with the property owners. This Concept Plan also provides the framework for ongoing negotiations to define the next steps in the predevelopment process, including the establishment of a business entity comprised of the participating property owners, to combine the properties and manage their planning and future development.

The conceptual buildings shown in the Concept Plan would be on the platform provided by the upper deck of a multi-level understory parking facility bringing building pads to grade with West Holly Street. Contemplated redevelopment uses include the following mix:

  • Hotel conference center, or an institutional use serving as an anchor and draw
  • Office over commercial mixed-use
  • Residential over commercial mixed-use
  • Urban plaza providing an extensive amenity
  • Structured parking, sized at a minimum to serve project requirements and expandable to serve the project environs
  • Provision for a pedestrian crossing, elevated to cross the BNSF railroad tracks and Chestnut Street/Roeder Avenue for a future connection with the Waterfront District

The next step in the predevelopment process will be objective research and assessment of site conditions, market and investment feasibility, and the refinement of preliminary site and building development program for the consolidated properties. With the establishment of the business vehicle consolidating the multiple property interests of the participating property owners and upon a positive determination of development feasibility, the assembled property would be presented to a master-developer under various scenarios, to be agreed upon by the participating owners, aimed at increasing development feasibility and reducing development risk.

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