Study finds city has 998 net acres for future jobs




The City of Bellingham has released a report that analyzes how much Bellingham land is available to support future job creation.

Bellingham’s Employment Lands Report provides a snapshot of Bellingham’s industry sectors, employment zones, and future employment capacity. It also includes statistical information on each of Bellingham’s geographic employment centers and a summary of existing land supply based on vacant and developable lands.

According to the report, an analysis of the 2008 employment land supply found 998 net developable acres suitable for job creation, more than 85 percent of which is in the northwest and north central part of the city and urban growth area (UGA) and could support up to 13,200 new jobs, according to current land-use and employment statistics. Wetland, critical areas and their buffers impact nearly 50 percent of all developable lands.

Tim Stewart, director of Bellingham’s Planning & Community Development Department, said his department has worked on the study for the past year and a half.

“When the city was updating its comprehensive plan back in 2005, the issue of land supply and particularly land-for-employment areas was a big issue, so that was a motivating force behind it,” Stewart said.

The study also showed that current redevelopment efforts, such as the waterfront and Old Town, have the potential to create up to 9,200 additional new jobs.

“We are really going to be dependent on our urban villages and our waterfront for a lot of our future growth, so those are pretty important,” Stewart said.

Stewart said while Bellingham has the capacity for job growth, the city needs to be careful to strike a balance between jobs and housing within the city limits to reduce dependency on single-occupancy vehicles.

“One of the strategies you can use to reach that objective is to have land use plans that balance jobs and housing, so people can live close to where they work and they don’t have to drive all over the place to get there,” he said.

A critical factor impacting business viability in Bellingham is access to critical infrastructure. The study pointed to regional retailers clustering along I-5, marine trades and seafood processors gathering around the waterfront, and warehouse and manufacturing popping up next to truck routes and rail facilities.

“Protection and enhancement of employment centers located at the intersection of two or more critical infrastructure elements is particularly important for future land use decisions,” according to the study.

This report, however, is only the first phase of employment-lands research. It will be followed by an in-depth study of the market sectors currently prospering in Bellingham and the types of businesses that might be successful if they were to relocate here.


Key report findings

  • An analysis of the 2008 employment-land supply found 998 net developable acres, most in the northwest and north central part of the city and urban growth area (UGA).
  • 56 percent of the available land is in the city’s UGA, and one-half of that land is located within the long-term phase III areas of the recently published Urban Services Area Phasing Plan (USAP).
  • According to current land use and employment statistics, this would create the capacity for an additional 13,200 new jobs.
  • Redevelopment estimates for the Old Town and Waterfront districts show potential for about 9,200 additional new jobs.
  • 34 percent of developed area in Bellingham’s employment centers is dedicated to surface parking, and the average Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of those areas is 0.3, which could mean that multi-story development and structured parking may become more economically feasible as property values and market conditions evolve.
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