Walton Place Phases 1 & 2 - Bellingham, Washington
RMC Architects, PLLC
Posted: February 22, 2023 | Projects
Bellingham, Washington, is a small city of about 80,000 grateful souls – a college town attractively centered between the far more populated and cosmopolitan neighbors to the north (Vancouver, BC) and south (Seattle). It lies between the scenic Salish Sea and Cascade mountains, west and east respectively. Its people are inclined to outdoor pursuits, local culture, and craft beer. They all take pride in the city’s unofficial tagline as the “City of Subdued Excitement.”
Photograph courtesy of RMC Architects, PLLC
And that it is. But, while Bellingham has escaped the rocketing real estate prices of its big city neighbors, it is not exempt from turbulent market forces. Resident housing in this mellow, remarkably situated and student-heavy community is not aligned with the wages many can earn within it; thus the need for affordable places to live is an ongoing issue. At the same time, there is a strong civic desire to curb outward growth and enliven the city’s expansive downtown by bringing more residents to its core.
Enter Walton Place, a two-phase affordable housing project for the Bellingham Housing Authority comprised of 91 one-, two-, and three-bedroom units with shared common areas. There is street-level retail at one end of the project and a 60-space parking podium at the other.
Significantly, the 130,000-square-foot project occupies a key block on the edge of Bellingham’s central business district along a major arterial, on the site of a former warehouse distribution center – a busy, car-centric situation. However, it’s just one block from the city’s main transit hub.
Every urban project has the opportunity to contribute to the strength of its city. In the case of Walton Place, this meant using the building – the first of its kind downtown, and a benchmark for both the client and the city – to establish a downtown connection. The vision behind this project was to define the district’s edge, encourage more pedestrian activity along the street, and introduce a contemporary urban living situation to residents.
While officially known as Walton Place, the project could also be called “Stoops on State Street.” Ground-level units were elevated to create a semi-private zone between tenants and pedestrians; a raised, low-fence plinth creates midblock privacy where units abut the street. Walkup stoops and landscaping give an urban neighborhood feel. Trees along the street and entry enhance the pedestrian environment. A small retail component at a primary corner toward the transit station adds to sidewalk energy.
Simple, cost-effective building forms and materials maximized the budget. Articulated entry points and durable materials connect the building to the neighborhood and contribute to pride of ownership. The project is built to Enterprises Green Community Criteria, and includes sustainable features such as rain gardens, low VOC materials, a performance-tested building envelope, and rooftop photovoltaics.
The project won a National Association of Housing & Redevelopment award for Program Innovation and Community Revitalization – a worthy measure of industry recognition. More valuable than the award is the measurable uptick in pedestrian activity in the surrounding blocks, including a recent sighting of young girls playing sidewalk hopscotch in front of the apartments – the surest sign of all that Walton Place residents feel at home downtown.
RMC Architects, PLLC
1223 Railroad Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225
818 Stewart Street, #1000, Seattle, WA 98101
The Rice Group
20201 Cedar Valley Road, #120, Lynnwood, WA 98036
4630 200th Street, SW, #C, Lynnwood WA 98036
208 3rd Street, Lynden, WA 98264
Pacific Survey & Engineering
1812 Cornwall Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225
Dawson Construction, Inc.
P.O. Box 30920, Bellingham
Location: Bellingham, Washington
Date Bid: Aug 2008
Construction Period: Aug 2008 to Dec 2010
Total Square Feet: 113,205
Site: 1.12 acres.
Number of Buildings: Three; 91 units.
Building Sizes: Garage, 15,318; first floor, 22,849; second floor, 23,272; additional floors; 51,766; total, 113,205 square feet.
Building Height: Garage, 8'; first floor, 15'; second floor, 10'; additional floors, 10'; total, 65'.
Basic Construction Type: New/Wood frame.
Foundation: Cast-in-place, reinforced concrete, slab-on-grade.
Exterior Walls: Brick. Roof: Membrane.
Floors: Concrete, wood. Interior Walls: Wood stud drywall.
Click here to view the full cost details for this project in the January/February 2023 issue of DCD