The JCPenney building has sat vacant on Cornwall Avenue for 30 years. Here’s why we can’t wait for that to change.A New Lease on LifeIn its heyday, the JCPenney building housed one of the most influential American retailers. But retail has changed, and so have the needs of downtown - that’s why finding a tenant for the space as-is proved fruitless for 30 years. Repurposing the building from its current form into a mixed-use structure develops it into a space fitting today’s needs. We can breathe new life into the building while providing housing, office and storefronts - all in one.
Why We Support a Public-Private Redevelopment:With no private market interest, the building has remained vacant. This public-private partnership brings together the City of Bellingham’s vested interest in revitalizing downtown with private developers that have the proven, local expertise needed to convert this challenging building into a vibrant, quality structure. The City’s investment in the project will also be repaid, meaning no public funds are lost in the venture. Together, this partnership’s plan uniquely contributes to our urban goals: providing 50 to 90 apartment units, three ground-floor retail spaces, public space improvements and an underground parking garage - all things we advocate for more of downtown.Why this development contributes to a better downtown:In 2018 the Downtown Bellingham Partnership adopted a new work plan after months of intensive data collection, market research, community and stakeholder meetings, and expert consultation. A major result of this was a consistent desire for more residential density through adding more housing.Bellingham has a housing shortage and some of the lowest vacancy rates in the State. When more people call Downtown home, it has tremendous benefits for the neighborhood that extend beyond economics. In communities with robust residential options, the downtown gets:
-More people walking, riding bikes and using public transportation and less reliant on cars.
-More people are on the street at all hours of the day leading to an improved perception of safety.
-More tax revenue is generated from the city center which leads to more focus from city resources on the neighborhood.
-More purchases being made at small, local businesses supporting a local workforce.As part of our plan, we committed to advocating for increased Downtown housing options and housing amenities. The proposal to retrofit the 30-year-vacant JCPenny building is particularly exciting as it promises to bring more of what our neighborhood needs (housing) to the heart of Downtown at a time when so much of Bellingham’s housing development is on the peripherals of the city center.Will these be affordable apartments?While this particular project is not designed to be subsidized housing (meaning then it's open to all), the estimated rents in this building will be affordable to those earning between 80% and 110% of our median income. Some units may even be affordable to those earning 60% of the median income. The median income in Bellingham is $44,441 a year. 80% - 110% of that is $35,550 - $48,885. 60% of that would be $26,665.That means this building would have apartments affordable to people making from $26,665 to $48,885+ annually.How You can Help Make It HappenThis project is widely supported by public and private stakeholders, business owners and downtown residents.
Join us in bringing this vision to life! Bellingham City Council will be reviewing the development agreement for this project at a hearing on Sept 24th - we encourage your attendance and show of support at this meeting. And don’t forget to tell your friends.