The Downtown Bellingham Partnership announced today the hiring of Jennifer Walters as the organization’s retail advocate. Walters will be responsible for executing the newly created downtown Bellingham retail strategy, a joint-funded venture between the City of Bellingham and the Downtown Bellingham Partnership. The strategy was developed by Downtown Works, a Seattle-based retail consultant firm, and outlines a master plan to strengthen the downtown retail core through the recruitment of new retailers and programs to support existing businesses.
Walters brings a diverse mix of experience to the role. She has held multiple retail management positons with local and regional brands ─ including Jay Jacobs in the Pacific Northwest and Tesoros Trading Company in Austin, Texas. Outside of retail management, Walters has worked in various roles in sales, event coordination and has extensive experience in the design industry.
“Jennifer has a great combination of retail management experience and creative roles,” Alice Clark, executive director of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, said. “She gets the business side of retailing and will use those skills and her enthusiasm to execute a new vision for downtown. We’re super excited that she's joined our team.”
Born in Seattle and raised throughout the Pacific Northwest, Walters first came to Bellingham in 1986. After calling the city home for eight years, Walters pursued opportunities in Jackson Hole, Wyo., before living in Santa Fe, N.M.; Bend, Ore.; Palm Springs, Calif.; Boise, Idaho; and Austin, Texas. Walters moved to Seattle in 2012 before returning to Bellingham in 2017.
“I’ve come full circle and I’m excited to be back in Bellingham and the Northwest,” Walters said. “Our community is truly a great and unique place to call home.”
Walters’ responsibilities through the downtown retail strategy will include working with current retailers to optimize operations and improve storefronts, helping property owners and managers find strong tenants and recruiting new retailers to open in downtown. These efforts will help grow existing businesses while better positioning Downtown Bellingham as a prime location for new retailers to enter the market.
“Downtown is full of charm and great shops, but we also have plenty of opportunity to grow and bring in new life as well,” Walters said. “I’m beyond excited to join the Downtown Bellingham Partnership and help lead these efforts.”
Walters’ hiring comes at the heels of several years of planning and intense interest in downtown retail and economic vitality. The retail advocate position received more than 60 applications during the position’s opening, with the finalist selected by a panel of City of Bellingham, Downtown Bellingham Partnership and Downtown Works staff.
“We're excited to join forces with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership to build a unique, contiguous and well-branded collection of quality shops, eateries and cultural offerings in our downtown,” Tara Sundin, economic and community development manager for the City of Bellingham, said. “With Jennifer hired, we're confident that the vision to create a compelling experience and sense of place for our residents and visitors alike will become a reality.”
The retail strategy was finalized in late March, and is available to view on the City’s website using the following link: www.cob.org/downtown. The strategy provides the foundation for Walters’ position with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership and outlines joint efforts in downtown’s revitalization.
“I'm excited to have a plan to enhance our great downtown and make our commercial core even stronger,” Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville said. “An important part of that plan is to have a retail advocate to implement the strategy and provide professional assistance to retailers, and I'm thrilled that we are moving forward.”
More information about the Downtown Bellingham Partnership can be found at www.downtownbellingham.com.