The City of Bellingham has offered the Port of Bellingham $300,000 and additional marine trade investments in an effort to move forward with a proposed easy-access shelter at 801/807 Roeder Ave. The proposed shelter site is a City-owned property where five marine trade businesses currently operate and would need to be relocated in the next year. In exchange for the investments, the City requests that the Port relinquish its option to purchase the property.
“We realize that the members of the Working Waterfront Coalition and others are concerned about displacement of business and losing area for marine trades. We share this concern and would like to see businesses relocated to an area at the port where they can not only thrive, but expand,” said Mayor Kelli Linville.
The City of Bellingham had already offered existing tenants the ability to stay at their current location until May 2018 at rental rates discounted between 80-90% what they were previously paying. The City offer to the Port includes the following investments:
- $300,000 capital contribution to assist the Port in transitioning a related property to one that can serve working waterfront businesses;
- Use of Chestnut St. right-of-way, adding approximately 9,000 square feet to their existing property, roughly a $90,000 value;
- Security fencing around the perimeter of the site;
- Increased financial support to the Lighthouse Mission to provide more staffing for patrolling nearby properties and businesses;
- Port participation in easy-access shelter site planning; and
- Port right of first negotiation to purchase the shelter property if it is no longer leased to the Lighthouse Mission or other provider serving people in need.
In total, the rent decrease and new transition deal provides more than $500,000 of support to working waterfront businesses.
The 200-bed, 24-hour shelter – along with permanent housing solutions supported by the City – will help to address the significant increase in unsheltered individuals. Mayor Linville has been working with staff and community partner Lighthouse Mission Ministries (LMM) for nearly a year to identify a location for an easy-access shelter. LMM was the only agency that stepped forward to partner with the City to operate a shelter, and the Roeder location was the only feasible site identified that suited LMM's needs and minimized impacts to neighborhoods – particularly residential communities. If approved, LMM has committed to raise $1.5 million to rehabilitate the building and fund operations, with $180,000 per year of City support for emergency night shelter services.
“No City leader wants to see marine trades suffer. These investments mean that we can support marines trades and the well-paying jobs they provide, while also address the public health crisis playing out on our City's streets,” said Bellingham City Councilmember Dan Hammill.
Community concern about homelessness has grown in recent years; the results of the 2016 community survey revealed that it is one of the top issues facing Bellingham.
“This is an opportunity for two bodies to come together on a very important public need, and we can help out marine trades as well,” City Councilmember April Barker said. “We are all one team. I see this as a win-win.”