Speaking to business leaders during her State of the City address, Kelli Linville said she still recalls downtown Bellingham as the vibrant city center it was in her childhood. One that existed before economic downturn, and before the creation of Bellis Fair Mall and other local retail centers.
“We are in a different era now,” Bellingham’s mayor said, during her remarks on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Downtown revitalization plans were among a span of topics Linville covered in her speech during a special event hosted by the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Linville spoke and answered questions for a little under an hour in a banquet room at the Best Western Lakeway Inn and Conference Center. The mayor is entering her second year of a four-year term.
With projects across the city in various phases of planning, Linville devoted a good portion of her comments to new development plans, including updates on the Waterfront District project being done in coordination with the Port of Bellingham.
Waterfront-planning activity is expected to pick up in 2013 now that the port and city have completed a draft of the sub-area plan for the new district.
Project leaders are entering a regulatory review phase, which includes a comprehensive analysis by planning officials and advisory groups. A review and public-hearing process by the city’s Planning Commission will follow.
The mayor said she plans to have the project in front of the Planning Commission by March.
While not going into great detail during her remarks, Linville said multiple changes have been made to the project’s phasing and investment structure throughout the eight-year planning process. But one component she has made sure stays intact, she said, is a plan for the site to include new parks and public space near the shoreline.
Linville said much of her first year in office was spent strengthening relationships between the city and other regional government agencies, as well as between the city and private business.
The mayor said she wants city leaders to focus on making strategic partnerships with investors and developers as revitalized mixed-use districts downtown and on the waterfront take shape.
Linville also noted she would like to begin developing renovation plans for several city-owned facilities, including the Municipal Court Building on C Street and the downtown Federal Building on Magnolia Street.
She mentioned the possibility of moving city offices out of the Municipal Court Building at some point, then opening the facility to new tenants or other uses.
She also said the Federal Building’s future needs to be decided.
“We have under-utilized and non-utilized facilities that the city owns, and we need to make sure we’re maximizing them,” Linville said.
– Mayor Linville said she spent much of 2012 solidifying the city’s roster of department heads. A new interim human resources director and a new city attorney were recently hired. The mayor said she will formally announce the hiring of Clifford Cook as Bellingham’s new chief of police sometime in February.
– Linville stressed the need for sound fiscal policy for the rest of her term. She said that by 2014, she wants city spending to match revenues.
– In response to an audience question about Bellingham’s urban-village plans in locations such as Samish Way and the Fountain District, Linville expressed support for strong mixed-use districts. She suggested the city could strengthen urban villages by providing new incentives for businesses or residential developers.
Contact Evan Marczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-647-8805.