The Whatcom Community Foundation (WCF) is spearheading the Millworks project. We are a philanthropic organization in hot pursuit of a future where everyone in Whatcom County thrives. Since our founding in 1996, the Community Foundation has invested nearly $60 million in projects, programs and organizations that build community health, happiness and prosperity.
The Millworks builds on multiple established community plans and goals:
Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan
Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)
The Waterfront Futures Group (2003-4)
The City of Bellingham: Consolidated Plan
Bellingham City Council Legacies and Strategic Commitments
Community Health Improvement Plan (2022-2026)
As master developer, the Whatcom Community Foundation is responsible for Millworks from conception to completion. We established Millworks LLC to accomplish the project. Our interests lie in public goods, wherever such opportunities exist. Our value lies in the Foundation’s strength as a catalyst for community progress and equity. Our understanding of community challenges and development combined with trusted relationships across the community’s private, nonprofit and public sectors put the Foundation in a strong position to bring together the right partners to realize a project that serves the people of Whatcom County well into the future.
Mercy Housing Northwest has developed more than 2,000 rental homes that working people
across Washington can afford, including 321 units in seven projects in Whatcom County serving
approximately 600 people.
Mercy distinguishes itself with valuable onsite resident services, which have been refined over its 30-year history of support that helps people make positive changes in their lives and pursue opportunities to get permanently out of poverty. Mercy delivers culturally responsive services in a model that is based on partnerships with other community-based providers. A particular focus in Bellingham has been on children’s educational success, which has led to transformative change for families, including seeing graduation rates at Mercy’s Sterling Meadows property rise to 98%.
The Port of Bellingham owns the land, and in fall 2021 approved an option to sell the property to
Mercy Housing Northwest and The Millworks LLC. The option lasts until December 31, 2022,
allowing us time to work with project partners to design spaces that meet the community’s goals
and needs. And to work with donors, investors and lenders to secure the financing necessary to
complete the project.
Phase I financing involves a combination of public and private funds, including from the
Bellingham’s Home Fund, a 10-year housing levy, Washington State Housing Trust Fund, and
federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, as well generous donations from PeaceHealth, the Norcliffe Foundation, the Mt. Baker Foundation and the Whatcom Community Foundation — which includes gifts from individuals.
Phase II financing will include philanthropic dollars – gifts and grants, an essential component to help ensure long-term affordability, as well as investment dollars and debt financing.
Phase I is slated for occupancy in April 2024.
Phase II is anticipated for occupancy by year end 2026 at the latest.