Welcome to Meet The Locals! An in-depth interview with a local resident of Bellingham. Each week, we will highlight a specific neighborhood and hear the inside scoop on what makes it unique and why so many people don’t want to leave!
Home, as we will discover through these interviews, is more than four decorated walls and furniture, it’s a rich web of interconnection and relationships with everything and everyone around us.
Home is about recognizing our neighborhood, our street, and our city, are all pulsing with potential and possibility.
More than an address, where we live is the birthplace and launch pad for our best adventures, our personal evolution, and our most treasured moments in life.
Through these conversations with locals, I’m ultimately seeking to discover what transforms a crazy city into a cozy village?
a scattered neighborhood into a strong network?
a dead-end street into a dynamic family?
a private home into a peaceful haven?
As we shed light on people’s specific stories and experiences I know you will feel inspired to re-discover the communities you inhabit like a curious tourist. You will travel the well-worn paths and everyday relationships around you with renewed creativity and imagination.
You will be awakened to your hunger for meaningful connections with your neighbors. And you will be infused with energy and hope to seek out places where you (and your family) can flourish!
Now, I’d like to introduce you to our first guest, Nicole Champagne!
I met Nicole randomly on a sidewalk in Cornwall. We were both out walking with our family and struck up a conversation. Nicole is where the idea hatched in my brain for Meet the Locals.
I don’t remember her exact wording, but at the time, my husband and I were on the move again. Discontent with our home on five acres, we were anxiously trying to figure out our identity as a family and where we could live in order for all of us to thrive.
Nicole mentioned how her kids were growing and even though their house was small, they didn’t want to leave. They would find a way to make it work because they loved where they lived so much.
Her words stayed with me and now here we are…
Tell us, what initially drew you to the Cornwall neighborhood?
We weren’t expecting to fall for an early 20th-century home. It was a surprise to me! But when our realtor encouraged us to “just drive by,” we realized it checked enough boxes. Affordability, bikeable neighborhood, a detached shop, lots of potential to put our stamp on it, and space for us to grow our family.
What surprised you most about the neighborhood?
I really like the idea of intergenerational, communal living. Although it hasn’t come to fruition in the ways I originally thought, living in Cornwall meets this need of mine. At first, when we moved in, I was a bit worried my kids wouldn’t have anyone to play with, but it quickly became a street filled with families and older, retired folks.
My vision of being part of an interdependent community became a reality!
What are your top 3 favorite parts about living here?
I would say the top 3 are:
- The relationships we have with our neighbors.
- Our proximity to everything. We can bike to 3 city parks, walk or bike downtown, and we’re centrally located!
- Our home and how we’ve made it our own!
Does your neighborhood partake in any special traditions or regular activities?
I wouldn’t say we have anything specifically on the calendar, but I think our tradition is more in the way our kids pop back and forth between each other’s houses, the way we show up for one another. My neighbors are all people I trust, we have each other’s backs for the most part.
I feel like I’m part of something and it alleviates any feelings of isolation.
And parenting is one of the most isolating experiences that there is!
One time we were out of town and our neighbor’s plumbing backed up. She had a key to our house and she just came in and used the shower. Her husband warned, “Don’t do that! That’s a total violation!” She told me what she did after the fact and hoped it was okay.
I loved that she felt comfortable enough to come in and use our shower, this is exactly the kind of relationship I want to have with our neighbors!
Which leads right into our next question, what makes someone a good neighbor?
I think it’s simple: communication. Being able to talk about whatever is happening, the same thing that makes a good roommate. We’re going to have conflicts, we’re going to have disagreements, we’re going to have different needs that clash, and how we talk about it is important. Respectful communication is really the key!
What are 3 words to describe your neighborhood?
The community, the convenience, for example being walking distance from Haggen, and the beauty. I love walking around our neighborhood. The homes are beautiful and established. When I’m driving down Broadway I feel like I’m in a fancy neighborhood!
Are there any places you visit regularly in your area?
Definitely the parks. Another place we go frequently is Goods. A family-friendly taproom and food truck. It’s all outdoor seating, but we go even in the winter too because they have heaters. There’s either a taco truck or The Dumpling Girls truck, and there’s always really good food and interesting beer. The kids can run like crazy and scream and no one really complains.
In December they have Christmas trees and every year we go with friends to pick one out.
We also meet up with our friends in Columbia and Lettered Streets at Elizabeth Station for really good pizza!
Who have you met in your neighborhood that has most impacted your life and why?
The families! And the elders.
This vision of a multi-generational community has come to life here. Also, from the neighborhood, I have a regular walking date with another mom. It’s 20 minutes. We walk to Starbucks at Haggen, not even my favorite coffee, but it’s close and we both work from home. In the morning before work we meet, walk there, and catch up.
It makes me think about making my whole social life recurring, perhaps this would make it easier for everyone’s schedules.
Do you have any secret spots you like to visit in Bellingham?
I love running along the Railroad Trail sometimes all the way up to Whatcom Falls. The kids also like visiting parks and they’ve special names for each.
Waypoint Park is Blue Park.
Boulevard Park is Pirate Ship Park.
Squalicum is Treehouse Park.
What would say to people thinking of making the move to Bellingham?
In the beginning, I felt like I was always missing out by living here. I came here for college and then began longing for the vibrancy of Seattle, where I grew up, some real excitement. But through the years, Bellingham has grown on me. It’s laid-back, quiet, and slower-paced. My son’s school is fantastic. We’ve made lifelong friends.
Now suddenly, I want to stay, especially after landing a remote job. And I occasionally go to Seattle to meet with my colleagues and then I get to come home to Bellingham. It’s the perfect balance.
To end, here’s a quick round of questions for you to answer about Bellingham:
Favorite Coffee Shop?
What’s one place you highly recommend in Bellingham to someone who is visiting?
Check out the waterfront for sure! They have Waypoint Park, the pump track, and Trackside, and really cool street art. The waterfront continues to keep changing and developing in good ways.
What do you miss most about Bellingham when you’re away?
I lived out of my car for 2 months right after college looking for other cities to live in. But every place I stopped I said, “This reminds me of Bellingham.”
I missed the feeling of having people who know me, who have known me for a long time, a community to fall back on. I have friends now I’ve known for over 20 years, we’ve been through breakups, births and deaths together.
How would you define home?
I think home is a feeling- a feeling of belonging.
Nicole is a designer who lives, works, and plays
with her family in Bellingham, Washington.
For more information (& a short video!) on the Cornwall neighborhood, its history, and what it’s like to live there, visit the Bellingham Real Estate Stories.