Bellingham ranked 8 in the nation by travel website
Bellingham’s downtown was recognized as being the eighth best in the nation by Livability.com, a travel and leisure website.
Livability’s “Top Ten Best Downtowns 2014” featured downtown Bellingham, spanning 249 acres with nearly 2,400 residents and about 7,500 employees, as a model city for sustainability and strong local community.
Fort Worth, Texas, topped the list with more than 777,000 residents, 13 parks and a 35-block shopping and entertainment district.
Hannah Breveleri is a Western senior and 14-year resident of Bellingham.
“I do enjoy Bellingham and the downtown scene has improved quite a bit over the years that I’ve lived here,” Breveleri said.
Breveleri remembers a time when downtown Bellingham seemed more industrial and less student-friendly, she said.
The Georgia Pacific West plant closing was a developmental move in the right direction for downtown, Breveleri said.
As a student, Breveleri enjoys downtown’s seasonal farmers market, local breweries and various boutiques.
Downtown Bellingham is unique for its compactness and accessibility, Breveleri said.
“All of the good spots are within a five-minute walking distance from each other,” she said.
According to the 2014 “Downtown Bellingham Plan,” the City of Bellingham reported an increase in nearly 1,000 new housing units downtown since 2000.
The Central Business Plan Downtown Bellingham was developed in 1989 to promote growth in both retail and infrastructure as well as to transform a business-driven district into a multi-use neighborhood, according to the City of Bellingham website.
Justin Baker, a supervisor at the downtown Community Food Co-op, spends much of his time downtown as both an employee and resident of the area.
“Once I came here I didn’t want to leave and I think that happens to a lot of people,” Baker said.
Baker, originally from Louisiana, has lived in Bellingham for 10 years and has been employed at the Co-op for eight.
Since moving to Bellingham, Baker noticed more people living downtown, more restaurants, bars and increased foot traffic, he said.
Not everyone agrees with Downtown Bellingham’s recent acclaim, including Steve Scheaffer, who has lived in Bellingham since 1989.
Scheaffer, a volunteer at the Pickford Film Center, is still waiting for bigger moves to be made with some of downtown’s older, larger and vacant buildings, he said.
“Downtown has been evolving ever so slowly for the whole time I’ve been here,” Scheaffer said. “It’s way behind schedule as far as I’m concerned.”
Scheaffer would like to see a pedestrian mall including shops and restaurants on Cornwall Avenue, he said. A few blocks without vehicle traffic would be a move in the right direction, he said.
Nick Yoho, manager of Third Planet, a new shop on Holly Street in Downtown Bellingham, moved here in January of this year from Lawrence, Kansas to manage the store.
Yoho feels as though Downtown Bellingham deserves praise he said.
“It’s one of the best kept secret towns,” Yoho said.