Executive Louws Passes On Interesting Perspective On A Promenade For Birch Bay

Executive Louws was recently contacted by an Architect in our area, Dymond Nicon and he, Executive Louws, suggested that we “forward these comments to any other community members who might be intersted.” While the Birch Bay Buzz normally does not repost letters by policy, we felt this one deserves some community exposure……

“Dear Mr. Jack Louws, County Executive:

I am a practicing architect and planner living and working in the Birch Bay area and Whatcom County for over 20 years. I have looked upon Birch Bay as a major assist with untapped potential.  It could easily be one of  Whatcom County’s major attractions and be an economic resource while providing a unique place to live, work and play that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the County. The improvements mentioned during the Council meeting are obviously a step in the right direction for the community, tourists and the environment. And I thank you for that. 

Having looked at the development along Birch Bay Drive, I see a potential that has not been addressed that would place Birch Bay on a much higher level of enjoyment and benefit that is not seen in White Rock. My vision suggests that Birch Bay Drive, from the Trend west Time Share to the Birch Bay Market,  be relocated to the rear of all the developments along this stretch and turn this stretch of Birch Bay Drive into a major pedestrian walkway or Promenade. This does three things that the simple berm walkway does not provide.

1)      The most significant is that the Bay then would become a major pedestrian community, eliminating the pedestrian/ automobile conflicts that is seen today and will still continue if the simple berm/raised path solution moves forward as schematically planned. This pedestrian conflict arises from trying to cross Birch Bay Drive to the Beach  or to what would be a pedestrian walkway along the beach. 

2)      The second benefit would be to remove cars, exhaust, pollutants, oil, etc. from this stretch of waterfront.  

3)       Another benefit would be to create a sense of place within Birch Bay, rather than a continuous strip of development with no beginning or end and definitely no middle or place.  

The potential of a Birch Bay Pedestrian Promenade would directly connect the developments along this strip  to the beach.  As a major public space, it could be lined with trees, include character lighting standards to enhance safety, provide for public seating places, outdoor community functions (such as concerts) eating establishments could serve the Promenade, just to name a few. The connection of development and the beach would be immeasurable in benefits to the community and to the developers and businesses that line this stretch.

This would open the doors for the County to establish mutually beneficial benefits for the developer and the community, as  it would include providing pedestrian walkways from rear located parking areas to the Promenade. These links could be lined with mixed use, residential/retail. This again would deepen the interaction and potential benefits inland from the Promenade to attract businesses into the area to serve the community. Presently, any and all businesses are limited to the frontage along Birch Bay Drive. New buildings could be arranged to form mall-like pedestrian links of  mixed-use of residential over commercial that tie the major attraction (beach and Promenade) with the parking areas. 

I foresee the land owners  willing to work with the County to develop and relocate Birch Bay Drive, for their land would increase  with the potential increased commercial/residential development frontage along both sides of the new street  and achieving true waterfront frontage, not separated by a street.   In exchange for the benefits to the landowner, they in turn could be required to pay for and construct the new relocated Birch Bay Drive. A Master Plan should be established that shows the general link systems between adjacent neighbors and from the parking areas to the beach. 

Incorporating these requirements, they could be reviewed through the Conditional Use process, as well as , creating a Design District with its’ set of design standards. In some situations, those presently substantially developed,  the new road could be located at the foot of the hill that runs parallel to the beach and behind the existing developments, with little or no impact to the existing developments.

The Promenade and the relocated Birch Bay Drive could be phased as development occurs. Roundabouts could be used as  temporary termination points along the existing road and to move traffic to the new road inland. As a new link occurs, through development,  the roundabout could be relocated further down the strip. Links of roadway that were tied to the new rear road could be then turned into additional pedestrian links to and from the beach. The Promenade could always be used by emergency vehicles with the incorporation of bollards at each end.

These are just a few of my thoughts regarding what could be the future of Birch Bay. I have developed schematic plans of how the Promenade might be created and interlinked with the new road located behind the existing and potentially new developments along this strip. I would be happy to discuss these ideas further with you and/or those involved in the design and improvements to Birch Bay Drive. To a great extent, the land along this stretch is presently undeveloped, which I see as a benefit, for it opens the door for a “once in a life opportunity” for Birch Bay, its’ community, its’ environment, the landowners and the County. Please take a serious look at these potentials and their lasting benefits.

Thank you for your consideration, 


NICON INTERNATIONAL, Architects & Planners

Dymond Nicon, Architect

5315 Nootka Loop, Blaine, WA 98230

360-778-3151, dymond_nicon@comcast.net

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4 Responses to Executive Louws Passes On Interesting Perspective On A Promenade For Birch Bay

  1. Mark van Der Zalm says:

    I could not agree more with these conceptual notions for the birch bay drive. Mr Nicon correctly points out that the window of opportunity remains to get this done. I am a landscape architect and urban designer with a cabin in bbay.

    The views, atmosphere, and sense of place in birch bay is special. Having a pedestrian oriented main promenade would vault birch bay into comparisons with redondo beach, coal harbor, or embarcadero.

    Vision is needed – as well as political will and budget.

  2. Ruth & Al says:

    We are not landscape architects, planners or urban designers, but we have a question. How does this proposal deal with the wetlands that cover area behind the existing building?

  3. Dymond Nicon says:

    Thank you for your comments. I would have responded earlier had I known this site was up and running. Again, thank you Executive Louws for posting my thoughts. In response to Ruth and Al’s comment regarding the wetland behind the existing buildings, I offer the following: The majority of the relocated Birch Bay Drive would move along the toe of the exisitng bank from Bay Center to what was known as the Birch Bay Golf Course to where, I believe, the concern for wetlands exist.
    At this point, the roadway could easily work within the proposed developments of the re-development of the “Sea Links” property between the rear of “CJ’s” Restaurant and the Golf Course. Note, that Sea Links was going to be re-developed by the previous owner, Homestead, with roadways and housing units in the area in question. As the roadway worked through the Sea Links property it would move either directly at the rear of Trend West timeshare or further inland behind the next proposed building of their development, from here the roadway would turn along the frontage of the second time share that houses the a few commerical establishments and reconnect with the existing Birch Bay Drive with a “roundabout”. The relocated roadway would not impact the wetlands to the east in either case. Both of these projects are going through the planning process with Whatcom County for their proposed developments and have dealt with the wetland issues within their submittal. What this proposal looks to do, is to enhance the shoreline, move automobile traffic inland, increase land values, create a draw for additonal business and tourists, increase the safety and in doing so provide a strong sense of place and community.

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