The author of this letter is an American friend of Steve Bender’s who apparently got hooked on The Revelstoke Current’s Daily Chuckle feature then began reading the news site’s stories and features. As you can read below he saw parallels between the proposed mall development here and the experience of Bellingham, Washington.
To the Editor:
The Trans-Canada Highway mall proposal was of special interest to me because Bellingham experienced the same controversy in 1988 with development of Bellis Fair, a huge mall off the I-5, with plenty of modern stores, and convenient free parking. It was ideal for Canadian shoppers. A husband and wife could spend most of the day there with restaurants, a theater and stores galore. What’s not to like?
Well, downtown Bellingham business was gutted. The controversy between long-established shop owners versus shoppers who demanded convenience was classic.
Here’s a quote from the Bellingham Business Journal:
“The Bon Marche. Nordstrom. J.C. Penney. Woolworth. Sears. Once upon a time, these stores were all located in downtown Bellingham.
While some newcomers to the area and local youngsters may not be aware of this, many longtime downtown business owners say they won’t soon forget the glory days when these department stores were located in the heart of the city and, combined with numerous independent retailers of various sizes, made for a thriving downtown business district.
“The streets were busy and the sidewalks were bustling with people moving from store to store,” recalls Donel Griggs, whose family business, Griggs Office Supplies, has been located downtown since 1906. “It was gorgeous downtown. When I start thinking about it, I get emotional.”
And then, in 1988, came the arrival of Bellis Fair mall.
The major department stores, which for decades had drawn shoppers downtown, were lured away by the mall, and became anchor tenants there…”
Adjustments were made over time so that downtown Bellingham is alive and well today. The nature of its downtown changed for the worse initially, then s-l-o-w-l-y revitalized.
One section of Bellingham, Fairhaven, became a model of re-vitalization. Fifty years ago, Bellingham’s oldest district was in a state of decay. Today, it’s an upscale place with specialty shops, galleries, and restaurants in a historic setting of 1890 vintage brick buildings. Fairhaven revitalization happened without any chain or anchor stores at all.
We never go to downtown Bellingham but we do go to Fairhaven district, which had been the saddest part of Bellingham for many decades and then went through renovation and does just fine now without any big anchors there at all.