Bellingham’s long-term urban planning includes the creation of a waterfront development in the current location of the Georgia Pacific downtown facility. The 137-acre waterfront acquired by the Port of Bellingham in early 2005 provides the foundation for a 20-year redevelopment plan, with land use proposals ranging from a waterfront extension of Western Washington University to permanent public ownership of the site to the creation of a park in the ASB (Aerated Stabilization Basin) to help increase property values, increase the allure of the site for businesses, and fully remediate the entire site. The public is largely paying for the remediation of this old “brown field,” and many feel that the public, ergo, should be the permanent beneficiaries of that investment through public ownership. The Port of Bellingham has proposed building a new marina on the ASB. The new marina would generate revenue to cover expenses of the costs of the cleanup and renovation of the waterfront. The proposed marina has vocal resistance from those who believe that proposed site of the marina (G.P. lagoon) should be used for a community park or other use.
The official plan from the City of Bellingham includes “a new city neighborhood with homes, shops, offices and light industry, as well as parks and promenades, a healthy shoreline habitat along Bellingham Bay….” Despite the expense and scope of this project, it has received a relatively high level of support throughout the community. Some concern has been expressed by residents over the loss of viable industrial land in the city, however residential and commercial use of the area is seen to prevent further urban sprawl on undeveloped land at the edges of the city. Though the plan is still being developed, demolition of the GP site has begun.