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WWU Plans Expansion Into Happy Valley

WWU Wants 21st Street as "Processional"Entrance

Posted - Wednesday, Dec 4, 1996

On Friday, Dec 6, the new 10 year Campus Master Plan for WesternWashington University will be presented to the Board of Trustees fortheir consideration. They may approve it on that same day. Universityofficials have said they want to have the plan approved by theTrustees in time to present to the Bellingham City Council in Januaryof 97 for a speedy approval.

The Bellingham Herald has notreported any aspects of this plan. We at NW Citizen had to demand ourrights under the Washington State Public Disclosure Laws before wecould get copies of the plan. (Yes, the WWU officials called theirattorney to see if they had to give us copies.)

Parts of this plan have been kept semi-secret from the public, andparts of it have even been denied to exist during the last year -even while the plans were being crafted. In particular, the quietbuying up of Happy Valley properties has been denied by WWUofficials. There has been dissembling on questions about turning 21stStreet into a major arterial, splitting Happy Valley.

The reasons for the secrecy and denials are that the plan willdestroy Happy Valley as we know it. WWU wants to buy, for millions oftaxpayer dollars, over 13 city blocks of Happy Valley. They wouldrather this went unnoticed. Indeed, it has gone unnoticed. Threeproperties have already been quietly bought up.

On the left is the first public showing of the Master Plan. Wetook our hard gotten copy, scanned it and posted it here for you. Byclicking on this small image of the plan, you can download and view amuch larger copy - 190K.

On Campus Improvements Are Great

The WWU plan mostly involves improvements to the campus as we knowit. And WWU had many nice hearings with students a few years agoabout the on campus plans. There is a third square planned withbeautiful academic buildings surrounding it. Several multi-storyparking garages are planned. More dormitories are planned.

One sleeper that is planned is for the Administration to move outof Old Main and into Parks Hall on the South Campus. Parks Hall,although only about 15 years old, will be renovated for this, andgiven a new facade facing South. It will become the new "Old" Main.This will turn the campus away from the city and focus to the Southentrances. A new grand entrance plaza if planned for south of thebuilding.

21st Street - GardenStreet To Become New Main Arterial

What WWU is doing is trying to sneak a new primary arterial in onits neighboring residential areas. WWU has been pressuring theBellingham City Council for years to connect 21st Street to theFairhaven Parkway. Even though this connector has been taken off the6 year city street plan, WWU envisions it being built. WWU plans tobuild a 21st Street boulevard straight upthe hill to Highland Drive.

The off campus plans are not known tothe residents of Happy Valley. We will focus our concerns insucceeding articles on the three expensive projects that will impactthe Happy Valley neighborhood - and all of South Bellingham - if theuniversity has their way.

1. WWU plans to purchase over 13 city blocks of Happy Valley. Nouses are proposed for this area. No justification for its purchase ispresented. It is expected that about $10 million will be spent inacquiring this land. It will include all the land from the presentcampus down to Knox Avenue between 20th and 25th Streets.

2. Bulldoze and blast the hillside near the Ridgeway dorms so 21stStreet can run straight up to Highland Drive - as a boulevard noless. This will dramatically increase traffic from on the EllisStreet, Garden Street, Highland Drive, 21st Street route. We thinkWWU wants to see this become a new primarycity arterial.

3. Turn 21st Street into the new primary entrance to the campus.This will involve connecting 21st to the Fairhaven Parkway. We thinkWestern will push for the widening of the street, the landscaping ofthe street and the banning of on street parking. In short, thesplitting of the Happy Valley neighborhood in half. The creation of avery expensive and unnecessary "processional" entrance to the WesternWashington Univesity campus.

We Love Western

We love WWU and are hesitant to criticize it. However, with thisplan, WWU is showing an arrogance and insensitivety that reflectspoorly on it as a neighbor. The aspects of the plan that will impactHappy Valley have not been made public until we uncovered it, eventhough the plan has been 6 years in the making.

Western has spent millions on Bill McDonald Parkway over the last20 years to make it the primary entrance to the campus. WWU shouldnow live with that plan. WWU shows no solid reasons for expandinginto Happy Valley. It is empire building at its worst. This plan willwreck Happy Valley.

We believe Western can meet the goals of its Master Plan and saveperhaps $20 million dollars or more by keeping the Bill McDonaldParkway as its primary entrance, by not trying to make the GardenStreet - 21st Street route a primary arterial and by not buying up 50acres in Happy Valley.

If this expansion is needed, then Western should be open and makeits case to the public. It should justify how this will be costeffective in supporting higher education. Sneaking in parts of afuture plan is what we most strongly object to. We citizens pay forWWU - it is ours. It does not belong to the universityadministration. They must be made to understand that they cannot actagainst our best interests.

What Can We Do

Contact your Bellingham city council representative. Tell them youwant the WWU plan looked at with a critical eye - especially as itimpacts Happy Valley. Tell them you want neighborhoods to beprotected against a university that acts arrogantly. Tell them thatyou want the city council to decide the future of our city, not theUniversity.

Contact your state representatives and Senator. Tell them to denyWestern the funds to buy up Happy Valley. Tell them you want funds tobe spend wisely for college education facilities, not for buildinglittle empires with grand views. Tell them that Western should livewith its multi-million dollar Bill McDonald Parkway entrance - thatthey can't just jackhammer up streets every 20 years because theyhave a new fantasy of how their campus should look. We want ourdollars spent wisely.

What NW Citizen Will Do

We have more information that we think is important and will postit soon.

We are open to opinions and information that others may have. Wewill print responsible contributions. We think that this buying up ofHappy Valley can be stopped - if concerned citizens voice theirconcerns to their representatives. We think the multi-million dollar21st Street boulevard is so wasteful that it will not be funded ifcitizens complain about it.

Stay tuned. Rather, make a bookmark and check back.

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