By Jack Stubbs
The University of Washington’s Central Campus, the institution’s 215-acre academic core, is set to experience large-scale changes as its 2018 Campus Master Plan (CMP) is put into effect.
The redevelopment is part of a larger, vast 700-acre renovation initiative that will affect 86 potential development sites throughout the University campus, with up to 6 million net new gross square feet of development in the works across the four campus areas (central, west, south and east). The overarching plans for each campus sector address issues like the public realm and connectivity, the existing built environment and development capacity.
The 10-Year Conceptual Plan for the Central Campus seeks to preserve and enhance the historic and cultural buildings and open spaces; maintain the existing building heights; and provide additional capacity to support the University’s educational, research and service missions, according to the CMP.
The CMP identifies a total of approximately 2.7 million gross square feet of potential development throughout Central Campus—ultimately, however, the development limit is 900,000 new gross square feet (roughly 15 percent of the total 6 million development planned).
Throughout Central Campus, there are 18 potential developments across seven distinct development zones, each of which has specific design guidance parameters, according to the CMP. However, the UW Planning and Management team only plans to develop a certain proportion of the campus sector, according to Theresa Doherty, senior project director of the 2018 CMP. “What we started out doing was [identifying] more square footage and more development sites than we know we’re going to [eventually] need,” she said.
The planning team identified twice as many potential development sites—and twice as much square footage—in the CMP to enable flexibility for the institution’s departments moving forward. “The reason we’ve identified almost twice as many sites as we think we’re going to need is because we want that flexibility to meet the needs of the department[s] as they go forward and grow,” Doherty said.
Development Zone A aims to protect and enhance the Mt. Rainier view corridor and the university’s Red Square, while Zone B seems to preserve the Liberal Arts Quad and Denny Yard. The next two development zones propose the creation of a science quad open space that will connect the surrounding engineering facilities and emphasize the importance of preserving Parrington Lawn. Development Zone E is one of the most active and includes seven potential development sites—totaling roughly 1.3 million square feet—proximate to the north physics lab. This zone aims to respect the surrounding buildings currently on the site and preserve sight lines to the water. Development Zone F emphasizes the protection of the Rainier Vista view corridor and will strive to enhance the connections between Central Campus and East Campus. The final development zone emphasizes the preservation of existing campus hubs like the Life Sciences, Physics/Astronomy, and Architecture buildings.
Some of the potential developments throughout Central Campus include McMahon Hall Site, an 11-floor 400,000 square foot mixed-use structure located close to the university’s north physics lab. This building will require the demolition of a roughly 288,000 square foot parking lot. Another potential development is West of Memorial Way, a 200,000 square foot mixed-use building that will require the demolition of a 213-stall parking lot. Other potential developments include the Padelford Garage North Site, an 8-story 245,000 square foot academic/mixed-use building, and the Mechanical Engineering/English Annex, a 215,000 8-floor academic building that will require the demolition of a 23-stall parking lot.
The UW Planning and Management team doesn’t yet know which of the eighteen sites will ultimately be developed, since other factors have to be determined on the University’s behalf, according to Doherty. “At this point…we have to wait to see which departments need new facilities or which departments can get the funding for new facilities,” she said. “Once that happens, we’ll sit down with them to figure out what their program is and how much square footage they need, [and] then they [will] look at the various development sites,” she added.
The final development sites chosen will ultimately depend on department-specific needs. “If they want to be in Central Campus, they’ll evaluate that, [if they need more space for] Computer Science and Engineering, for instance,” she said. The departments will consider the potential developments in relation to their existing facilities—this will determine whether departments hope to ultimately be in Central Campus or one of the other three campus sectors.
As well as individual departmental needs, one of the foremost considerations remains funding for development, according to Doherty. “Unless we get funding and the funding mechanisms aren’t there, those sites won’t be developed,” she said.
Although departmental needs and the subsequent development sites remain undetermined at this moment in time, Doherty anticipates that there will be demand for new development in the long-term. “We anticipate that the need will be there, because we will continue to grow, as far as the number of students…so we’ve put together a plan that anticipates what our future needs will be,” she said.
Any new development will ultimately serve to enhance and expand the missions and goals of the institution in the long-term, according to Doherty. “Central campus is where a lot of the major classrooms and those types of facilities are currently located and will continue to be located,” she said. “The other thing about the development on campus is that all of it needs to be related to the university’s academic mission. All of these buildings and developments will be related to what’s happening on campus,” she said.
Originally proposed in 2015, the current version of the CMP has been three years in the making, and will continue to take shape over the coming months as it gathers momentum.
Doherty thinks that the CMP will reach the City Council sometime around winter 2018, when it will then be discussed by the city. “Then it will come back to the Board of Regents in the form of preliminary ordinance, and the Board of Regents will review that and respond back to the City Council sometime in April or May of 2018,” she said. Ultimately, Doherty hopes that the University will have a final plan by summer 2018, but the CMP will have to be given the green light by both the Board of Regents and the Seattle City Council before it is officially approved.