Western Waterfront Development

Western Washington University at the Bellingham Waterfront District

One of the most dynamic waterfront development projects on the west coast is taking place in Bellingham, Washington, and Western Washington University is excited about being a part of it.  Western has planned to be a part of this new development since late in 2002 when the City and Port of Bellingham first began discussions about the potential waterfront project.  Western’s commitment to expansion of the main campus to the waterfront has been ongoing since that time through active campus-wide planning and through WWU representation on the community’s Waterfront Futures Group and the Waterfront Advisory Group.

Western’s commitment was raised to another level when it made the first step to acquiring property in the Bellingham Waterfront District.  On June 14, 2013, the WWU Board of Trustees approved a Memorandum of Understanding authorizing President Bruce Shepard to transfer ownership of a Western property located at the corner of Hannegan Road and Bakerview Road in Bellingham into Western Crossing Development.  WCD, a non-profit corporation created by WWU and the Port of Bellingham, will put the property up for sale with proceeds of the sale being used to purchase property in the Bellingham Waterfront District.  That property is composed of six acres located in the Institutional Mixed Use Zone, which the Port of Bellingham is transferring into Western Crossing after final approval of the Bellingham Waterfront District Master Plan by the Bellingham City Council and Port of Bellingham Port Commission.

Indeed, what was once just a vision is becoming a step closer to reality.  Despite severe cuts in state funding support of more than 50 percent between 2009 and 2012, Western has continued to plan for a facility and programming at the Bellingham waterfront that will further enhance its ability to meets its strategic goals which are:

  • Build upon Western's strengths to address critical needs in the State of Washington.
  • Expand student access to rigorous and engaging baccalaureate and graduate education.
  • Foster and promote life-long learning and success in an ever-changing world.
  • Apply Western's expertise and collaborative approach to scholarship, creativity, and research in ways that strengthen communities beyond the campus.
  • Serve as a model for institutional effectiveness, innovation, diversity, and sustainability.

That facility will be a Community Learning Center (CLC) that offers high tech educational delivery and an environment that fosters constant learning for people from all walks of life from the city, region, state, nation and the world.  The CLC will serve as a melting pot that also brings the business, not-for-profit, and NGO’s communities together in collaboration and partnership with Western and other area higher education entities. 

The facility will serve as home to a number of Western’s academic programs, but its Extended Education Program (EEP) will be the primary tenant.  EEP is a robust program that provides a wide menu of offerings including:  The Academy for Lifelong Learning, Conference Services, Degree Programs, Distance and Online Programs, Language and Culture Programs, Personal and Professional Enrichment Courses, Post-Baccalaureate Programs and other offerings. 

Western’s expansion to the Bellingham Waterfront District is an on-going three phase process.  In Phase I WWU became a partner with Bellingham Technical College in the Technology Development Center in 2009.  In Phase 2 WWU will be leasing space from a developer in the initial 10.8 acre development at the north end of the waterfront property.   This facility will be used as the initial Community Learning Center.  The Community Learning Center will become a permanent facility in Phase 3 when Western and Western Crossing Development construct a new build in the Institutional Mixed Use area.  That facility could well be expanded to include an institute that is comprised of multiple WWU programs, in collaboration with a business partner.

For a complete history of Western’s planning for expansion of the main campus to the Bellingham Waterfront District, the following links are available for review:

Page Updated 02.02.2015