The Aloha Motel on Samish Way had a troubled past, from high crime rates to swabs testing positive for meth contamination. Understandably, nearby community members were not big fans of the establishment.   

Now, the site on which the motel once stood is slated to become Samish Way Urban Village, a residential complex featuring restaurants, retail spaces, and affordable housing. In a housing market with an extremely low vacancy rate, this development is a much needed addition to Bellingham’s residential landscape.  

Darby Cowles, a senior planner with the City of Bellingham, has been on the project’s frontlines. In cooperation with the Bellingham Housing Authority, Cowles has worked to acquire funding, coordinate with neighborhood associations, and secure permits.  

“It’s awesome that the Housing Authority is kind of putting the stake in the ground and developing such a high-quality, multifaceted project to get the ball rolling there…” Cowles says. “Starting to see it actually turned into a neighborhood is going to be really great.” 

The Bellingham Housing Authority has partnered with RMC Architects to build a complex with underground parking, 150 units, and ground floor retail spaces. One especially exciting aspect of the project is that a portion of the apartment units will serve low-income renters. 

After years of hard work, the former site of the Aloha Motel will soon become Bellingham’s newest urban village, welcoming newcomers and people of all income levels and transforming a previously deteriorating arterial into a vibrant community. 

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