City, developers need plenty of leash to revitalize Old Town

    Height restrictions. Building design and character. Questions of neighborhood integrity and feel.
   As development begins to creep into Old Town, these are some of the questions being raised by concerned residents regarding the area’s future. As often happens, developers and their architects have a differing vision of an area’s future as compared to its current residents.
   Given the fact that Old Town isn’t even a defined neighborhood per se, and exists in chunks of other widely varied neighborhoods such as the Central Business District and the Lettered Streets, it’s hard to imagine a central theme to the area that developers should have to follow in their upcoming designs.
   While Old Town has its share of historic buildings, we feel it should not be shackled with a Fairhaven-esque set of design rules.
   Moreover, the area’s height restrictions are both common-sense and promote the type of upscale residential projects that can make a difference in the area’s revitalization. Could this cost some of the residents in the Lettered Streets their views of the bay? Yes, but preservation of views is not an onus on any developer.
   Old Town has enormous promise but little cohesive neighborhood-wide character. Developing within the existing city codes could provide a facelift to an area sorely in need of one.
   Sometimes, change hurts.
   But to make an omelet that prospective buyers and potential future residents of Old Town will find appetizing, the city needs to let developers break some eggs, views or no views.

Carolyn Casey is the communications manager for the Port of Bellingham.




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