The Heart of Bellingham The City of Subdued Excitement Photo essay prepared by Erin Dobie, Lindsey Hayes, & Katrice Nicol
<ul><li>Downtown Bellingham consists of a Central Business District of Bellingham, the city civic area, the downtown cultural district, the Squalicum Harbor, and waterfront area. It is situated on Bellingham Bay, which is protected by Lummi Island, Portage Island, and the Lummi Peninsula. It lies west of Mount Baker and Lake Whatcom. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Long before the first European settlers came to this area, Bellingham was home to several Coast Salish Native Tribes. The first European settlers were led to the bay in canoes by Lummis who also helped clear the land and build the first buildings here, providing food and helping them survive their first winter. As Bellingham developed in the mid 1800’s, it became well known in the saw milling and gold mining community. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Morse Hardware Company founded in 1884 became one of Bellingham’s most well known and oldest companies. It was the bay’s first wholesale firm and the largest north of Seattle. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Community events were, and still are a large part of Bellingham’s downtown culture. Cultural awareness and community activism have contributed to the overall liberal and creative atmosphere that has emerged downtown. </li></ul>
<ul><li>The downtown Bellingham community is made up a of a socially, culturally, and economically diverse population. 87.9 percent of residents are white. Approximately 50 percent of the population is in their 20’s or 30’s, with 30 percent being in their 20’s. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Average Household size is 2.36 with 95 percent of housing units being occupied. In the downtown business district of Bellingham 12.1 percent of homes have children compared to 20.4 percent in all of Bellingham. The median household income for the downtown area is $23,441 where as Bellingham overall is $32, 530. </li></ul>
<ul><li>The economic recession is a major concern for local businesses downtown. Caila, Downtown Bellingham Partnership, stated that “many are concerned about going out of business, and sadly, many already have. The recession is affecting them all. They are forced to restructure, cut hours, lay off employees, and stay open longer. Community members are hesitant to spend money but because of this many of their favorite businesses are going out of business”. </li></ul>
<ul><li>While businesses are concerned about their livelihood, Caila indicated that “local businesses maintain close relationships with one another. They collaborate on programs to support one another and work to promote each other’s businesses. It is less about competition and more about maintaining a fun and unique downtown culture where all businesses can feel supported”. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Roger Mills, owner of the Wild Buffalo, house of music, shared that the business was about to be closed but because he loves the live music and bar atmosphere he and his friends decided to buy and attempt to promote the bar. Through community involvement and local business support they were able to gain business and grow to become a “hot spot “ in downtown Bellingham . </li></ul>
The college culture is a large part of Downtown Bellingham night life. Caila of Downtown Bellingham Partnership expressed “relationships between students and community members are difficult to foster due to interest differences. In the future it would be nice to have a more inclusive community culture and less of a divide between families and students”.
Community Relationships History And Art Culture and Entertainment Government Establishments Local Business Human Services Organizations Natural Water Source and Environment Transportation Downtown Bellingham Assets
<ul><li>Click map to view resources </li></ul>
business The Farmers Market supports local agriculture and promotes interaction between farms with the greater Bellingham community by providing goods and mutual supportive relationships.
Local Business are a significant asset of the downtown community. Downtown dollars are used similarly to gift certificates to support local business owners that serve not only downtown Bellingham, but also the greater Northwest population.
<ul><li>Homelessness </li></ul>Art is a prominent part of the downtown Bellingham culture. Mount Baker theater is a Bellingham landmark and a popular venue.
<ul><li>Harbor clean up/old town revitalization </li></ul>Whatcom Transportation Authority is centralized in downtown Bellingham servicing much of Whatcom County. The public transportation system is widely promoted, respected, and used by Bellingham residents.
Veteran services Bite of Bellingham, BellingJam, and Ski to Sea are examples of community entertainment and events that foster positive community relations and influence expansive community development.
<ul><li>Night safety </li></ul>Outdoor concerts, creative expression, and festivals are part of downtown Bellingham’s rich, artistic culture.
The City Hall, Courthouse, and Jail are local government facilities, located downtown, that serve Whatcom County.
Downtown has a unique and vibrant tradition of expression.
Community members have engaged in forms of peaceful political and artistic expression for many years. Seen here is a local resident playing a guitar on a downtown street and a peace vigil that has been maintained every Friday afternoon since the Vietnam War.
<ul><li>Leopold Retirement Resident Representative shared that “Downtown is very convenient for the Leopold retirement community with restaurants and shopping near by and an accommodating transportation system”. </li></ul>
The public library, YMCA, and WorkSource are just a few of the many Human Services resources located in downtown and available to all of Whatcom County.
Natural environment resources The Harbor is a natural water source as well as a place of entertainment and beauty. Maritime Heritage Park provides a way to enjoy the sites with friends and family. Need: Waterfront Development Plan
<ul><li>Economic stability </li></ul>Need: The Downtown area (near waterfront) is in need of beautification, maintenance, infrastructure, and overall enhancement.
Need: Revitalization and clean-up of waterfront/Old Town area.
Need: The streets of downtown Bellingham are sadly the home to many homeless individuals. The community lacks an adequate amount of resources for these people. Veterans who have little or no access to services make up a significant portion of the homeless population. This compromises the quality of life for both the individual and the community.
The original city hall which is now a museum and popular tourist attraction, is one of downtown’s most well known and recognized landmarks.