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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 Western Washington University will be presented to the Board of Trustees for their consideration. They may approve it on that same day. University officials have said they want to have the plan approved by the Trustees in time to present to the Bellingham City Council in January of 97 for a speedy approval.

The Bellingham Herald has not reported any aspects of this plan. We at NW Citizen had to demand our rights under the Washington State Public Disclosure Laws before we could get copies of the plan. (Yes, the WWU officials called their attorney to see if they had to give us copies.)

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

The reasons for the secrecy and denials are that the plan will destroy Happy Valley as we know it. WWU wants to buy, for millions of taxpayer dollars, over 13 city blocks of Happy Valley. They would rather this went unnoticed. Indeed, it has gone unnoticed. Three properties have already been quietly bought up.

On the left is the first public showing of the Master Plan. We took our hard gotten copy, scanned it and posted it here for you. By clicking on this small image of the plan, you can download and view a much larger copy - 190K.

On Campus Improvements Are Great

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

One sleeper that is planned is for the Administration to move out of Old Main and into Parks Hall on the South Campus. Parks Hall, although only about 15 years old, will be renovated for this, and given 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 South entrances. A new grand entrance plaza if planned for south of the building.

21st Street - Garden Street To Become New Main Arterial

What WWU is doing is trying to sneak a new primary arterial in on its neighboring residential areas. WWU has been pressuring the Bellingham City Council for years to connect 21st Street to the Fairhaven Parkway. Even though this connector has been taken off the 6 year city street plan, WWU envisions it being built. WWU plans to build a 21st Street boulevard straight up the hill to Highland Drive.

The off campus plans are not known to the residents of Happy Valley. We will focus our concerns in succeeding articles on the three expensive projects that will impact the Happy Valley neighborhood - and all of South Bellingham - if the university has their way.

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

2. Bulldoze and blast the hillside near the Ridgeway dorms so 21st Street can run straight up to Highland Drive - as a boulevard no less. This will dramatically increase traffic from on the Ellis Street, Garden Street, Highland Drive, 21st Street route. We think WWU wants to see this become a new primary city arterial.

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

We Love Western

We love WWU and are hesitant to criticize it. However, with this plan, WWU is showing an arrogance and insensitivety that reflects poorly on it as a neighbor. The aspects of the plan that will impact Happy Valley have not been made public until we uncovered it, even though the plan has been 6 years in the making.

Western has spent millions on Bill McDonald Parkway over the last 20 years to make it the primary entrance to the campus. WWU should now live with that plan. WWU shows no solid reasons for expanding into Happy Valley. It is empire building at its worst. This plan will wreck Happy Valley.

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

If this expansion is needed, then Western should be open and make its case to the public. It should justify how this will be cost effective in supporting higher education. Sneaking in parts of a future plan is what we most strongly object to. We citizens pay for WWU - it is ours. It does not belong to the university administration. They must be made to understand that they cannot act against our best interests.

What Can We Do

Contact your Bellingham city council representative. Tell them you want the WWU plan looked at with a critical eye - especially as it impacts Happy Valley. Tell them you want neighborhoods to be protected against a university that acts arrogantly. Tell them that you want the city council to decide the future of our city, not the University.

Contact your state representatives and Senator. Tell them to deny Western the funds to buy up Happy Valley. Tell them you want funds to be spend wisely for college education facilities, not for building little empires with grand views. Tell them that Western should live with its multi-million dollar Bill McDonald Parkway entrance - that they can't just jackhammer up streets every 20 years because they have a new fantasy of how their campus should look. We want our dollars spent wisely.

What NW Citizen Will Do

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

We are open to opinions and information that others may have. We will print responsible contributions. We think that this buying up of Happy Valley can be stopped - if concerned citizens voice their concerns to their representatives. We think the multi-million dollar 21st Street boulevard is so wasteful that it will not be funded if citizens complain about it.

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

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