State Relations

May 23, 2007

Waterfront Expansion in Western’s Future?

For the past several years, the city of Bellingham has been discussing the future of their waterfront.  Up until recently, the waterfront was underutilized and dominated by an old Georgia Pacific mill site that virtually sat at the apex of downtown Bellingham and the picturesque Bellingham Bay.  At the same time, student demand for access to Western Washington University has rivaled that of the University of Washington while the campus faces many of the same geographic challenges to expansion that confront the UW’s Seattle campus.

In the recently enacted biennial budget, the state legislature provided an additional $1 million to Western to facilitate continued planning for a potential expansion of the campus to the Bellingham waterfront.  While there is still much to be decided about the final design of the waterfront redevelopment project, many local leaders are excited about the possibility of the university having a physical presence along the waterfront.

The most talked about expansion option has been relocation of Western’s Huxley College of the Environment to the old Georgia Pacific mill site.  There has also been some discussion that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration might be interested in locating some of its vessels and facilities to the area.  The Bellingham Herald recently editorialized in favor of the expansion and the state legislature appears interested in moving the university’s expansion planning to the next level.

For those of you wanting to learn more about Western’s possible waterfront expansion plans, here’s a link to President Karen Morse’s homepage that discusses the potential options in more detail.