Waterfront District Redevelopment

The Waterfront District

The Port and City of Bellingham are redeveloping 237 acres on Bellingham's central waterfront that was formerly a pulp and tissue mill. A Master Plan has been approved to create a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood with new parks and trails and thousands of new jobs. This large land area won't change overnight; it will be redeveloped in phases over the next 40-50 years of investment and development before the project is completely finished.

What's Happening Now?

  • 2024 is off to a fast start with the Port-sponsored Fire & Story Festival on January 18,19 and 20. Three nights. Three wood-burning fires. More than 30 unique stories. This free for all ages event will show the potential for Bellingham's downtown waterfront as a year round destination.   
  • In 2023 Bellingham's downtown waterfront keeps getting better. The Port and Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition are expanding the raddest bike park in the Pacific Northwest with new advanced lines around the Pulp Storage Towers (aka the tiled tanks) with plans to add more features for beginners and young children next year. The Port has installed string lights throughout the Portal container village with more container businesses on the way. Bin 13 Wine Bar (which includes a rooftop deck) has submitted for permits and, depending on the review process, plans to have a soft opening in The Portal in September. Zeke's pizza will open a container restaurant in 2024 and the Port is developing a second Container Shop for the 2024 season available to local artisans and vendors for weekly rentals. Portal Putt mini golf will open a 9 hole course this summer and the Port is adding more local artwork and supporting more waterfront events like April Brews Day (April 29), the Shoestring Circus, the Northwest Tune-Up (July 14-16) and Noisy Waters Mural Festival (August 18-20). The Port has also expanded the parking lot off of Laurel Street across from The Portal. Mercy Housing Northwest is making great progress of Phase 1 of their affordable housing project and the waterfront condominiums on Granary Avenue are nearing completion.    
  • 2022 will be an exciting year on the downtown waterfront. There will be regular Food Trucks and summertime events like the Northwest Tune-up and Wednesday Farmers Market. Community members can reserve the Peter Paulson stage for music and events, and the Port is continuing development of its pop-up container village The Portal with businesses including Kulshan Trackside, an all ages, dog-friendly beer garden with regular live music and events; Sun-E-Land bikes offering bike rentals for the pump track; DISH Foundation and Our Kitchen offering coffee and baked goods while providing employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities; The Container Shop with rotating local artists, and Rain or Shine Riviera Club featuring Filling Station burgers, fried chicken sandwiches as well as Fish n' Chips with craft cocktails and a bar space. The Port is bringing new development projects to the waterfront including the adaptive reuse of the historic Boardmill building, a new affordable workforce and family housing and local food campus project, and the construction of waterfront condominiums.  The Port will continue to support community artwork and the reuse of historic industrial icons like a bike rack made from steel rollers once used to rotate logs during the debarking process at Georgia-Pacific's former pulp and paper mill. The City of Bellingham is also finishing the design of an extension of Waypoint Park along the Whatcom Waterway.   
  • Check out this bike park video showing how the Port's waterfront bike park and container village are transforming the Waterfront District into the vibrant heart of Bellingham. 
  • In November 2021, the Port Commission passed Resolution 1397 authorizing the Aerated Stabilization Basin to be reused to support multiple marine trade industries, rather than solely for marina purposes.
  • In October 2021, the Port amended its Master Development Agreement with Harcourt. The new agreement reduces the amount of acreage Harcourt has the option to develop on Bellingham's downtown waterfront while increasing the financial and performance requirements. 
  • 2021 was a busy year on Bellingham's downtown waterfront. The Port, in partnership with the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition, added a skills area and jump zone to its increasingly popular waterfront bike park. The Port started developing a pop-up container village built from repurposed shipping containers to increase public access as redevelopment gradually occurs over time. Kulshan Trackside was the first container business to open with a 25,000 square foot beer garden and huge lawn with games for all ages. The Selkie Scoop was the second container business to open offering homemade, organic ice cream and fresh rolled cones to visitors to the waterfront. Look for more container businesses to open soon with food, beverage and retail services. The Port also installed restrooms, a basketball hoop, public art, a grass lawn, and the Peter Paulson community stage next to the Digester Tanks. The Bellingham Farmers Market held its Wednesday market on the waterfront throughout the summer and plans to return in 2022. Harcourt has started construction on waterfront condominiums next to the Granary Building which will be complete in 2023, and the City has started designing an extension of Waypoint Park in front of these condominiums along the Whatcom Waterway. The Port has also approved an option to sell 3.3 acres of downtown waterfront property for the development of an affordable workforce and family housing and local food campus project
  • The Port opened a waterfront bike park in 2019 in the footprint of what will eventually become a large City park running through the middle of the site. The bike park is intended to improve public access to the water.
  • Check out this overview video showing recent events in the Waterfront District.
  • In 2019, the City opened the first new roads into the downtown waterfront which include Bellingham's first cycle-track, a bike lane physically separated from motor traffic and distinct from the sidewalk.
  • In 2019, the Port opened a temporary parking lot on the former Georgia-Pacific mill site to provide easy access to Waypoint Park and the Granary Building.
  • In 2019, the Port updated the Waterfront District Master Plan to improve the layout of parks and roads through the interior of the downtown waterfront.
  • In 2018, the Port signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Corix Utilities to develop a low-carbon District Energy implementation strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and efficiently heat and cool buildings using less energy. 
  • The City of Bellingham opened Waypoint Park and Central Pier in 2018 providing the community with public access to the downtown waterfront for the first time in over 100 years.  
  • In 2018, the Port and City finalized a Heritage Trail Concept which includes recommendations on how to showcase historic icons remaining from Georgia-Pacific's pulp and tissue mill. 
  • Check out this amazing demolition video showing the removal of Digester Building.  The Digester Building and Chipper Building were removed in the Fall of 2015 to help prepare the site for development with over 95% of the building materials reused or recycled on-site.  
  • The Port completed a $10 Million project to build a new 57,000 square foot manufacturing facility for local boat builder All American Marine in 2017 bringing new family-wage jobs and private investment to the central waterfront.
  • The Port sold two acres of property and a 48,000 square foot warehouse to local solar panel manufacturer Itek Energy allowing Itek to expand and hire additional employees. The development of Itek's new solar panel manufacturing plant added over 100 jobs to an increasingly vibrant downtown core.   
  • The Port Commission signed a Master Development Agreement with Dublin-based Harcourt Developments to develop 18.8 acres on Bellingham's downtown waterfront. Harcourt has started construction on their first project, the adaptive reuse of the iconic Granary Building
  • The Port finished a $35 Million cleanup of the Whatcom Waterway in 2016. This project removed historic contamination, restored salmon habitat, rebuilt marine trades infrastructure along the shoreline and created a significant number of construction jobs and long-term employment opportunities. 
  • The City completed a New Waterfront Trail in 2015 connecting Squalicum Harbor to the former GP Aeration Stabilization Basin.  This new trail offers spectacular views of Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands.
  • The City completed the final master plan for Cornwall Beach Park (17-acres) which will be Bellingham's largest waterfront park.
  • The Port is targeting family-wage job industries such as Clean Tech and Marine Cargo and Related Construction for recruitment to the Waterfront District.
  • The Port is working with the Department of Ecology to clean-up contaminated property at six state-listed cleanup sites in the Waterfront District .
  • The Port is working with the City to promote a range of sustainable strategies including the development of district specific utilities and the salvage and reuse of industrial icons from the former Georgia Pacific pulp and paper mill.
  • The Port is designing new stormwater infrastructure for the Shipping Terminal and Marine Trades Area to support working waterfront operations, to protect the environment and to recruit job-creating industrial users.