Port, WWU initiate plans for waterfront land transfers

Western Washington University and the Port of Bellingham are moving ahead with plans to transfer waterfront land into a shared development entity, and facilitate the purchase of waterfront property by WWU.

According to a recently approved agreement, the port will transfer six acres of Waterfront District land between the Downtown Development Area and the Log Pond Development Area into a shared development entity called Western Crossing Development. In exchange, WWU will transfer in a 24-acre parcel of land at the intersection of Hannegan Road and Bakerview Road.

Once the Hannegan property is sold, the value of the Hannegan land sale will be assigned to the university and the value of the waterfront parcel will be assigned to the port, within the shared development entity.

“Having Western on the waterfront will add tremendous value to the Waterfront District because it will enhance Western’s connections with the community and will attract developer investment,” said Port Commissioner Scott Walker, who also serves on the board of Western Crossing, said in a statement. “Western is the second largest employer in Whatcom county, and that economic engine and student population has a large impact on local businesses.”

WWU’s Board of Trustees and the port’s Board of Commissioners each agreed to the memorandum of understanding , which is a broad framework agreement between the Port and Western that defines how land can be moved into Western Crossing Development, in order to enable development of the WWU presence in the Waterfront District.

Western Crossing’s board unanimously approved the memorandum.

“We are pleased and excited about this critically important MOU that moves Western closer to being part of what will be a dynamic development of the Bellingham waterfront,” said WWU President Bruce Shepard, in a statement. “Western has been committed to a presence at the waterfront since community discussions and planning first began in 2006, and that commitment is being lived out by the acquisition of property in the Waterfront District. The eventual expansion of our campus to the waterfront creates possibilities for new partnerships and collaborations for Western and community partners.”

In addition to WWU acquiring a tract of land at the waterfront, the memorandum also states that the university may lease building space from a developer in the 10.8-acre parcel the port now is offering for private development parcels. This could establish WWU as an early tenant for the Waterfront District.

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