Student Housing Project Revived for Lincoln St. Development Site

The Puget Neighborhood is about to become a bit more crowded but less than originally planned. 600+ students to be housed south of Fred Meyer.

The Puget Neighborhood is about to become a bit more crowded but less than originally planned. 600+ students to be housed south of Fred Meyer.

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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 Firm Revives 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. 

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Sandy Robson

Apr 09, 2015

Some additional info. about CA Ventures:

http://ca-ventures.com/pdfs/CA Ventures, Wanxiang an…pdf

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Sandy Robson

Apr 09, 2015

The link I posted doesn’t seem to work so here is the information from that:

Ventures, Wanxiang and Core Investments Acquire Six Former Campus Crest Sites
February 10, 2015 Published in The Latest News

Chicago — The six sites are largely entitled and ready for CA to begin construction on five of the sites in the spring of 2015, for delivery in the fall of 2016.

CA Student Living (CA), a subsidiary of CA Ventures, Wanxiang America Real Estate Group and Core Investments LLC have formed a joint venture and closed on the acquisition of six development sites from Campus Crest Communities Inc. The sites are located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Bellingham, Washington; Allendale, Michigan; Tempe, Arizona; Sacramento, California; and Boca Raton, Florida.

Wanxiang America Real Estate Group is a Chicago-based investment partner that is the domestic real estate arm of Chinese auto parts manufacturer Wanxiang Group Inc. Core Investments is a co-developer and investment partner consisting of John Clifford and Thomas Odai.

“CA is excited to step into and launch these fast-moving developments to expand our student housing offerings at a wider range of pricing options for students around the country,” says Tom Scott, CEO of CA Ventures.The joint venture completed this transaction as part of a strategic opportunity to acquire entitled, or nearly entitled, land with plans and permits, avoiding the entitlement process and proceeding directly to construction. The six sites are largely entitled and ready for CA to begin construction on five of the sites in the spring of 2015, for delivery in the fall of 2016. The JV intends to utilize the previously approved Campus Crest development plans for the majority of these development sites, while incorporating some modifications to make the projects more consistent with CA’s other developments and assets.

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Dick Conoboy

Apr 10, 2015

Thanks for the link, Sandy.  Any activity open to commodification will be invaded by the private sector.  In this case these folks are also eating their own. It will be interesting to see how these mega-dorm creating entities will fare when the next,  and surely inevitable, financial crisis hits. Are we unwittingly creating our next slum housing complexes?

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Dick Conoboy

Apr 11, 2015

According to a 10 April article in the Western Front on the apartment complex on Lincoln St. the build-out will include 16 four-bedroom apartments. http://www.westernfrontonline.com/2015/04/10/a-new-owner-and-a-new-plan-for-lakeway-apartment-complex/ If I am not mistaken, the Hearing Examiner put an end to the Ambling project, University Ridge, for precisely the reason the buildings contained four-bedroom units that are not allowed under the BMC. 

Here is the relevant portion of HE decision with regard to that aspect of the code. 

PERMITTED USES
1. The proposed use for Purpose Built Student Housing may be conducted on the site provided the units conform to the requirements for multi-family residential dwelling units and contain no more than three bedrooms per unit. The use of the property for four Boarding and Rooming Houses with 576 beds in 164 units, most of which contain four bedrooms, is not permitted.
2. The number of dwelling units on the site may not exceed 176, or the number of units to which the property is vested, whichever is less; provided that the number of units is limited to 164 unless the Applicant obtains a Transportation Concurrency Certificate for the requisite additional trips and complies with all other requirements of the Bellingham Municipal Code arising out of an increase in the number of units.
3. Occupancy of each dwelling unit is limited to one family, as defined in the Bellingham Municipal Code, which, with exceptions for disabled individuals and children with familial status, allows no more than 3 unrelated individuals.  [See BMC 20.08.20 (F) (1)]
4. Use of the property for the proposed Purpose Built Student Housing shall be consistent with the materials and representations submitted by the Applicant in support of the proposal, including, but not limited to, the following:
a) Professional, on-site, 24-hour management,
b) Lease agreements that establish a no-tolerance policy for unacceptable behavior that could result in undue disturbance to other residents and neighboring properties,
c) Provision of a shuttle service for residents to and from the Park and Ride facility, WWU, downtown, and other locations, to reduce traffic to and from the site, and
d) Provision of parking spaces at a ratio of at least 0.75 parking spaces per resident/staff (or the number required in Paragraph No. 9 below, whichever is greater).

I have sent this information to the Planning Department and to the Cascade Engineering Group which is working on this development.

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Abe Jacobson

Apr 12, 2015

Dick,
Thank you for your alert and well-researched reporting.

Regarding the unhappiness of the trailer-park residents on the east side of Lincoln Ave, due to their concern about the increased traffic on Lincoln caused by the new student housing development, it is worth recalling a few facts.

First, with its current loading, Lincoln Ave has very light traffic compared to comparable major arterials. (Think: Guide Meridian, Bakerview at Northwest, Sunset Drive at James, Lakeway, ... in descending order of horrific-ness.) So far, the traffic on Lincoln near the proposed development has been relatively light compared to the capabilities of the arterial.

Second, a prior resident of a neighborhood always perceives loss when a zoned build-out occurs in her neighborhood. But, this is not really a new loss, but rather, a feature of the neighborhood that has already been baked into the cake. The build-out on the west side of Lincoln involves no radically new zoning adjustments, and instead is just the realization of something that has been potential so far. It is always nice to have a wilderness across the street from where I live, but I have no right to complain when the zoned-for development of that space finally occurs, providing that there is no threat to public safety (e.g. fire-department access) or violation of existing zoning.

Abe Jacobson (whose house is on a major arterial)

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Dick Conoboy

Apr 12, 2015

Abe,
It is not so much the increased traffic but the placement of the exits from the new commercial and residential areas onto Lincoln St and the effect that placement will have on the several exits from the mobile home park, especially for those residents who want to turn left from the mobile home park on to Lincoln. 

The fact that Lincoln is relatively light on traffic now is no reason to try to fill it up with cars so that it reaches capacity.  The intersection of Lincoln and Lakeway and the surrounding areas are already pedestrian hell-holes - so much for walkability.  Yes, we too can create a new Meridian in the Puget Neighborhood. 

Of course we DO have a right to complain, in fact, a duty to do so.  Not all those planning decisions made years ago were gems of forethought. That cake may have been baked, as you say, but that is no reason to eat all of it.

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