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New building brings Bellingham city departments together

City leaders tout Operation Center's environmental standards

From left
From left (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Jenelle Baumbach News Intern

This month, several city department employees are moving into a new building that fills a dire need for office space: the Pacific Street Operations Center at 2221 Pacific St.

The nearly $20 million project, which took about 18 months to complete, marks the first major construction and improvement to the Public Works Department site since 1995. Funding for the project was approved by the Bellingham City Council in April 2021 and came out of the 2021–2022 budget. 

A new operations barn was also constructed for additional storage and work space for city employees. The barn has several ports for city vehicle storage and maintenance.

photo  The operations barn will hold large city vehicles, tools and other equipment for storage. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

Designed to be energy efficient and follow the city’s climate goals, both the building and the barn are fully electric and built to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver standards.

The high insulation and air-tightness of the spaces contribute to reduced energy use throughout the building and barn. Eric Johnston, the director of public works, said the planning and construction were all done through a sustainable lens. 

The outside of the building features a topographic map of Bellingham on one side, which fulfills the project’s requirement for the One Percent for Art program. Established in 2015, the program seeks to integrate art into public spaces, requiring 1% of the cost for projects over $2 million to be allocated to artwork.

photo  The new Pacific Street Operations Center features a topographic map of Bellingham on the northeast side of the building, designed by David Heck of RMC Architects. The map fulfills the One Percent for Art program requirement for the $20 million project. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

The top three floors are utilized as office space for employees from the Parks and Recreation Department’s Operations division and the Public Works Department’s Natural Resources and Operations divisions. 

A critical portion of each department’s staff is the field crews that go out to the streets, parks and facilities to maintain operations and functions for the city. The second floor of the new building provides a space for them, with a lunchroom, locker rooms, a kitchen and showers.

According to Chris Jacox, the facilities project manager, there are around 200 field employees for parks and public works. Every day, these employees head out to parks, water treatment plants, roads and more. The operations center is utilized as a home base.

Johnston said emergency response, safety training and administrative support will be more efficient in this new setting.

photo  Facilities Project Manager Chris Jacox, left, and Director of Public Works Eric Johnston give a tour of the new building on March 1. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

Renee LaCroix, lead of the Natural Resources and Environment Department, said her employees have always been split between several buildings and across several floors. The new building allows for staff to be in one place at one time, simplifies communication and fosters collaboration between the public works and parks departments.

The Parks Operations division has operated out of the old site on Woburn Street for around 60 years, Parks Operations Manager Steve Janiszewski said. Entering into the new Pacific Street building will serve as a massive upgrade to their work settings.

The first floor is built to be a secondary setting for council meetings and will provide additional space for hybrid public hearings, commission meetings and other city-to-public interactions. The 100-person capacity room will also serve as space for staff training and meetings.

photo  The Operations Center features a locker room with 140 lockers for Public Works employees to store personal items and clothes. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

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