The City of Bellingham is considering entering into a development agreement to relocate Northwest Recycling out of Old Town, transitioning the area from light industrial to an urban village.
Parberry's Inc., which operates Northwest Recycling in several blocks along Holly, Astor and C streets in Old Town, has expressed interest in relocating its business to a more suitable long-term location and redeveloping their Old Town properties. The development agreement with Parberry's, Inc. proposes to relocate Northwest Recycling to a suitable property in or close to Bellingham, and the City would agree to invest in public infrastructure in Old Town to support redevelopment of Parberry properties.
The agreement with the City would ensure the move of the business and redevelopment of the properties over several years. In addition to providing public infrastructure, the City would provide Parberry's an option to purchase the City-owned 600 W. Holly Street property. The City would invest approximately $2.5 million in infrastructure, and the estimated cost to Parberry's Inc. to relocate Northwest Recycling is $10-15 million.
Mayor Kelli Linville is recommending to Bellingham City Council that the City support these efforts and approve the agreement.
“The contribution of the Parberry family to our community has been extensive and mostly anonymous over the years," Mayor Linville said. “Just this month, Lou Parberry was inducted into the Bellingham High School Athletic Hall of Fame for his early investments in the Boys and Girls Club and other organizations. This transformation in Old Town will be the most recent example of the Parberry family's investment in our community. I would like to thank them for their years of dedication to the Bellingham community and for their continued commitment to Old Town."
Transitioning Old Town from industrial use to urban village
For 150 years, Old Town has been at the center of the Bellingham community, and for much of that time it has been a busy industrial route. Today Old Town is bordered by Bellingham's downtown and waterfront districts to the south and the Lettered Streets and Columbia neighborhoods to the east and north. It is interspersed with vacant land, retail and industrial businesses, homeless services, a small residential population, and large parks and a fish hatchery.
Parberry's owns about 46 percent of the developable property in Old Town, which is envisioned as an urban village – a community where people live, work and play – with eventually between 860 and 1,120 housing units and up to 400,000 square feet of commercial space. But dominant current use is a light industrial operation, Northwest Recycling, which has some impacts such as truck traffic and noise that make it incompatible with pedestrians and residents. Old Town's proximity to downtown and the waterfront makes it an ideal candidate to be redeveloped for more residential density.
“We are pleased to partner with the City to finally realize the vision of an urban village in Old Town," said Brad Parberry, President of Parberry's Inc. “The Parberry family has been an important part of this community and Old Town since 1923. For us, this is where it all began. We believe that it is essential that this area be redeveloped in a way that is mindful of the rich historical traditions of this area. “
Since the Old Town Sub-Area Plan was adopted in 2008, public investment in the waterfront district has provided the area's first public access. The private sector has also continued to invest in downtown through historic rehabilitation, new residential units, new businesses, and community events and programs, leading to the resurgence of a vibrant and vital core. These investments have positioned Old Town to transition into a healthy and active neighborhood.
“Old Town has the 'bones' that make it an ideal candidate to transition from what it is today into a healthy and active neighborhood," said Tara Sundin, community and economic development manager with the City of Bellingham. “Old Town is blessed with connection to the water, views and vistas, historic resources, pedestrian-friendly street grid and trail system, proximity to historic residential neighborhoods, presence of higher-education and a museum, and unique small businesses. This is a great time to make this transition."
Parberry's Inc. and Northwest Recycling
The Parberry family has a long history in Old Town. In 1923, Louis H. Parberry, Sr. opened Parberry Iron & Metal, which would later become Northwest Recycling. The scrap business eventually evolved to include new steel sales and the scrap yard was moved to its current location in Old Town. During the 1950s, Louis H. Parberry Jr. took the reins from his father, further diversifying the business to include a retail hardware store and other retail ventures in Old Town. He was known to the locals as “Mayor Lou" and his generosity and support of the community are still felt today.
When curb-side recycling began in Bellingham in the early 1980s, Louis Jr. brought Northwest Recycling to Old Town. Northwest Recycling is the exclusive processor of recyclable materials generated by Sanitary Services curbside recycling program and provides recycling services for Bellingham and Whatcom County.
Today, in addition to the recycling operations, Northwest Recycling operates a storage container rental business. The current operations have outgrown the small blocks of Old Town, however.
“We have had plans to redevelop this area for many years but now is the time to turn them into action," said Kevin Moore, CEO of Parberry's Inc. “This will not happen overnight, but we are committed to making it happen."
The City will hold a public hearing on this proposal on Jan. 28, 2019. For more information, including links to relevant supporting documents, visit www.cob.org/oldtown.