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September 20, 2023
Construction is underway on a new affordable housing building for seniors at 1000 N. Forest St. on the edge of downtown Bellingham. Called Laurel & Forest, the community is being developed by local nonprofit the Opportunity Council and will also include an approximately 5,000-square-foot, three-classroom early learning and childcare center on its ground level.
The four-story building broke ground in March, with Dawson Construction as the general contractor. Seattle-based Environmental Works Community Design Center is the architect. The building is expected to open next year.
The structure is rising on land formerly owned by Whatcom County. Last July, the county transferred the land (which is just under a half-acre) to the nonprofit for $15. State law allows the county to transfer property for public benefit purposes.
All units in the forthcoming building will be one-bedroom apartments for moderate/low-income seniors. The childcare facility is expected to have space for around 65 children. Environmental Works' design also includes a shared multipurpose room that will be used to host intergenerational activities for the children and residents. The childcare facility and the apartments will also share a central courtyard, which the early learning center will face. The building will be served by 28 structured parking stalls.
An old commercial building was demolished to make way for the new one, which will be around 62,800 square feet in total.
Funding sources for Laurel & Forest include the state Department of Commerce, which granted $332,000, the state Housing Trust Fund, which provided approximately $845,300, as well as Low Income Housing Tax Credit, county investment and American Rescue Plan dollars.
Founded in 1965, the Opportunity Council serves the homeless and low-income families with services including education, childcare, food assistance, energy assistance and housing. It also has a branch in Oak Harbor to serve Island County.
Elsewhere in Bellingham, the Opportunity Council recently broke ground on a renovation project at the former Whatcom Health Center building, which it is developing along with partners into a new community health and hygiene facility called the Way Station.
The Way Station project is a collaboration between the Opportunity Council, Unity Care NW, PeaceHealth, and the Whatcom County Health Department. The health and hygiene facility will contain 17 beds and will provide showers, clean and safe restrooms, and laundry facilities to people experiencing homelessness. Patients experiencing homelessness who are discharged from the hospital but need somewhere to recover will be referred to the Way Station's medical respite program.
The former Whatcom Health Center building, at 1500 N. State St., is owned by Whatcom County.
Emma Hinchliffe can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.