Twas the Week Before Christmas…

By On
• In Bellingham, Business,

…and the Historic Fairhaven shopping district rang with the noise of city public works tearing up the street.

Note: see late evening update at end of article.

Yes. The Bellingham Public Works department decided to totally rip up a block of Mill Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets today and repave it. It is causing parking chaos in the small shopping district during this, the biggest shopping week of the year.

In speaking to several business owners, all were unaware until this morning that the street was going to be closed and torn up. The only advance notice was given to the residents of the two condos so they could get their cars out of the underground parking garages. And they did, parking on the main shopping street of 11th, so that as business owners arrived early this morning to prepare for opening they found all the parking places on two blocks fully taken - but not by shoppers.

Why? Well the city folks tried to cop out of responsibility by saying the construction company had the option of doing it whenever it wanted and also that the asphalt plant was shutting down on Friday, not to open again until February. It seems the contruction company, not being tone deaf to this being the high shopping season, tried to get public works to allow the work to be done after Christmas or early spring. But public works said do it now.

After having spoken to several people in city hall, this appears to be public works managers being totally tone deaf to local business concerns. Public Works Superintendent of Maintenance Mike Olinger, said that yes, the repaving “… probably could wait until spring…” without any problem.

The street should be opened sometime tomorrow, Friday. The construction company is trying to do the job as fast as possible.

Meanwhile, a good business analyst could calculate how many thousands - many thousands - of dollars in lost sales the small Fairhaven shopping district will loose today and possibly tomorrow. And we can only guess how many shoppers, planning to buy presents at Village Books, Fairhaven Toy Garden, the Whatcom Antique Mall and any number of other shops right on that corner or that block of 11th will decide to go to the mall where they can park - even if it means a longer walk to a shop.

One business owner joked - well half joked - that maybe the downtown association asked the city to do the work this week and drive shoppers downtown. But in truth, the last couple years have seen downtown and Fairhaven shopping organizations working together on promotions.

Disclaimer: I run the website that promotes the historic district. Normally I do not report on Fairhaven issues here because of that. However, this is way over the line and just such absurd action by public works. No business district should be so disrupted by our well paid and supposedly intelligent city administrators.

Evening Update:

The WRS Construction crew got plenty of equipment and crew to the street and finished as darkness came but before the lashing rain arrived about 6 pm. Street opened and we are back to normal. No thanks to our Public Works department. Much thanks to the WRS construction crew. But the day was a losing one for many merchants. See bottom photo below for activity as darkness descended.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]