After years of anticipation, Bellingham's prayers have been answered: affordable housing at the Waterfront. Not.
I was drawn to the “good news” site by an advertisement in a local newspaper. There may have been some earlier press on the Phase A offering on these places that I had not seen. They are not yet built but more are now offered during a second phase, Phase B, during which you can reserve a unit for purchase for a mere $2,500. According to Zillow, the condos in three separate buildings are going in the $500K for a one bedroom unit, to prices in the $750K price range for larger units of 1,500 sq. ft.
This from the Zillow advertising on these hot units:
“The Waterfront Living condos are now taking reservations! All units offer a luxury experience, high-end finishes, gorgeous views of Bellingham Bay & the San Juan Islands & a lifestyle that most will envy. These condos are a short walk to the beach, restaurants & our stunning interurban trail system. This is the only true Waterfront Living condos in Bellingham, reserve yours today! The unit starts at base-price & increases upon sq ft, location, bed/bath, etc. Specs & finishes are not complete.”
Hot condos! Get your hot condos here! Going fast! Hot condos for sale! I wonder if the sales office resembles a hot dog cart.
Beach? OK, if you mean the gray scree dumped near the artistic “Acid Ball” leftover from the previous outfit that left us with a site poisoned with who-knows-what. (Actually we know and it aint' good.)
And there is more, those advertised views!
“Following the completion of Waypoint Park, the next project is the construction of three condo buildings by the water to create a community between Downtown and the bay. Enjoy waking up to your panoramic sunrise and picturesque water views.”
Sure, if the ASB lagoon and dancing barges along with working boats and such craft are your vision of a bayside marina view. I'll sleep in, if you don't mind. Wake me up when the community forms.
It seems nowadays that what is built in Bellingham (although we are not the only victim city) is utterly without esthetic merit. In a previous article, I have called this The Stickification of Bellingham. Although these “luxury” condos on the Waterfront might be made of some more sturdy stuff (¿Quién sabe?) with doodads galore, the visual impression leaves much to be desired - might I declare charitably. Alas, even ugly will not protect residents from the liquifaction that will occur at the Waterfront with the next big earthquake. They had better attach some lifeboats under the balconies. Better yet, they can just buy and repurpose one of those now useless Carnival Cruise liners and dock it there. Five thousand instant units, an indoor mall, 600 restaurants, a casino, a pool (without gray scree) and 50 massage tables. Not to mention the life boats, each with onboard Starbucks.
A recent article in Current Affairs magazine provides a list of descriptives, most of which apply to what I have dubbed the Aardvark School of Architecture. As stated in the Current Affairs piece “When Is the Revolution in Architecture Coming?” by Nathan J. Robinson, “The cities we build are not wondrous.” How can they be when the mantra is put-'em-up-and-pack-'em-in-and-charge-the-max-while-cities-tax? Cities now are no longer looking to preserve wonder unless it is the citizens wondering how utterly awful the new stuff is. Here is Robinson's list.
“Drab Stark Monolithic Asymmetric Brutal Unfriendly Humorless Grating Boring Minimalist Arbitrary Lifeless Like you’d see anywhere (placeless) Disharmonious with nature Disconnected from history/culture"
Our town wins the awful prize with perhaps the exception of asymmetric. How does anything being planned or built at the Waterfront have the slightest relationship to wishes that Hamsters expressed shortly after I arrived here two decades ago? The city and port gave it all up cheap to Harcourt. You see, the marketeers will take care of what the citizens are incapable of understanding. It ain't about beauty. It is all about money.
Want a good, recent example? Consider the homes on Billy Frank, Jr. Street that were torn down about a month ago. Although not historic in designation, historic nonetheless. Homes that might be sold at relatively affordable prices as fixer-uppers for families with limited income have been bulldozed for an apartment building whose rents are market-set and will likely be filled with students since the shining university on the hill has not built any meaningful dormitory space since the early 1970s ("WWU Dormitory Construction Plans Woefully Inadequate").
So we build fast and ugly as if growth has no limits and people no longer see. From my article “The Great Deceleration” written over four years ago:
“But all we see around us is a push for more, more and again more. It can be managed, we are told. In Washington state there is an absurdly titled Growth Management Act. As if growth is still something to be managed. Not only can it not be managed, it must be reversed. How about a Washington State Degrowth Management Act?”
Unfortunately, we are still talking about how to accommodate growth. We shrug. Should we grow up or out? But there is another choice and that is not to grow or at the very, very, very least, to talk about it and what we might do. But we are not even talking about it. We are obeying. It is, after all, the reasonable thing to do. Baaaah!