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What Bellingham really needs, according to us … and you

Why can't we have 'nice things?' Allow us to project a few into the universe

An interpretive trail linking Bellingham's industrial past
Bellingham could use something more iconic than the faux-iconic Acid Ball that, um, graces its waterfront. Put your thinking caps on, urges columist Ron Judd. (Ron Judd/Cascadia Daily News)
By Ron Judd Executive Editor
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It just comes tumbling out, about once a month, during discussions about some inane action by an agency, institution, person or process, usually when one of the above wastes large amounts of money on something:

“This is why we can’t have nice things.”

As Richard M. Nixon used to say: This has the added benefit of being true.

On the other hand, it’s also possible that the line between Nice Things Acquisition and fiscal reality just might be nudged ever so slightly by optimistic projection into the universe.

It is in that spirit we offer the following CDN Opinion page “Nice Things Bellingham Needs List.” It’s an ode to progress in our hometown, assembled after several minutes of what qualifies as deep, deep thought (about something other than lunch) in our downtown Bellingham newsroom.

(HUGE FREAKING DISCLAIMER: Of course, we get that these things are not life essentials and SHOULD NOT IN ANY WAY compete with public or private funds for assistance to unhoused individuals, bike lanes nor tree-saving efforts. They’re just nice things some folks would like to see happen. Don’t shoot the messenger.)

In no particular order:

Rooftop Bar(s): We get that it’s only nice enough to sit there for about 18 days a year without being blown off the roof and halfway to Ferndale. We don’t care. Downtown is a sea of flat roofs, people. Get busy.

A Truly Robust and Sophisticated Wine Bar: Not total acclaim for this one. But OK.

Drive-In Movie Theater: Seriously viable again now with Bluetooth Adapt-X.

Dutch Bros Coffee: Most of us locals don’t even know what this is and feel we already have our coffee needs met. But in the spirit of being the messenger, there it is. (The closest ones are in Snohomish County; are they creeping north?)

A Tim Hortons: Goes without saying. Two years ago, we even offered up the mislocated Point Roberts in exchange for a single franchise. But the selfish, uncaring, vindictive people of Canada continue to ghost us.

Sit-down Cuban restaurant: We’re just passing these along here.

Something Cool to Occupy the Former Nimbus Space Atop Bellingham Towers: Maybe a sit-down, stare-forth Cuban Restaurant? (Note: Too damn high for a rooftop bar.)

“Affordable Housing”: Hello, this was supposed to be light. What’s next? Day care?

World-Class Indoor Recreation Center: Yes, we’re working on that.

Restaurant that Serves Past 9 p.m.: Sure, there are a couple. Wholly insufficient.  

Nordstrom Rack: Do these even still exist in brick/mortar? Is anyone sure? Does anyone care? Once you have a Lululemon and a Fjallraven, does this even matter? This entire suggestion is so … 1997.

Dick’s Drive-In: Duh.

New Old Independent/Tony’s Coffee Shop on Site of Old Independent Coffee Shop: I’d put this at the top of my list — if my caffeine-deprived hands could grasp the mouse to pick it up and move it there.

Electric Trolley (Maybe with Wine and Snacks): I mean, someone did have the foresight to leave those otherwise-godawful brick track sections in the middle of otherwise perfectly good roads in Fairhaven. It’s sort of their destiny.

WWU-to-Waterfront Gondola: Best of the best of many rejected fun redevelopment ideas for the waterfront project, now replaced by a dirt bike track and Container-henge.

A QFC: Split opinions about this. Isn’t it just a Haggen in blue and yellow clothing? A couple transplanted Seattleites in the room think otherwise.

A Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Trader Joe’s: One can be in Sumas and for Canadians. Only.

A Conservatory: This idea has chops. Good place to go inside, get warm and zen out during the 10 cold months, eh? (House rule: No headphones.)

Covered Walkway from Terminal to Plane at BLI: Seriously, is this tiny Nice Thing too much to ask for? For at least half the year, getting on a plane at Bellingham Intergalactic Airport (nod to the late Dick Beardsley) is like catching a redeye out of Kotzebue, Alaska.

An Aquarium: Bigger, splashier one than the little cool spot down at the port offices. Source says there’s one for sale cheap in Miami. Maybe that billionaire who wanted to move something big across the country is still available?

“Granville Island Market Type Year-Around Market”: OK, now we’re on the outskirts of Dreamland. And are people not aware we’re already getting a “Pike Place Market-Type Market” at Portal Village? How many “-types” does one place need?

Something Truly Iconic: Beyond the Acid Ball, that will make people somewhere else yearn for a “Bellingham-type (blank).”

Hulking 150-Foot Tower: Like the one that used to top Bellingham Towers. Put it back! Some people back in biplane days said it was a navigation hazard. C’mon: mathematical odds of the extremely small number of daily flights from BLI ever running into it are an acceptable risk.

“Beer Donkey: Popular wedding attraction in some places, we are told.

Pedal Pub: New to some of us; sort of a mini drunk-bus powered entirely by people drinking and pedaling at the same time. (Possibly towed by beer donkey during low-output phases.) Can’t find a single reason to oppose this one. But it might need snow tires to get up to its logical destination: Mount Baker.

One Lousy Destroyer or Battleship: Preferably mothballed, to fill up all that gaping space along the wharf at the Port of Bellingham. Surely they have one to spare in Bremerton at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. (Note to U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen: We would settle for a Coast Guard cutter with a couple of big guns.)

Fast Ferry to Somewhere: We’re a maritime people. Just give us a lift, man. Even if it’s just to Eliza Island and back. Seasonal jet foil service to Friday Harbor would work. Maybe add a stop at Roche Harbor to drop off the trust-funders if it would help finance.

Second Hospital: See explanation for Dick’s, above.

A Real Art Museum: All art, all the time. Rotating exhibits. Interactive. Family friendly. Etc.

Year-round Cooking Schools: Preferably graded on pass/fail — or at least the curve.

Sprawling Shed Roof Play Spaces: Best bang-for-buck potential to fill the need for sheltered rec space in darkland. Walls? Who needs ’em?

So there you go. We’ve dared to dream. Want to play along? Send your own Bellingham Nice Things suggestions to We’ll follow up.

Ron Judd's column appears weekly;; @roncjudd.

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