By Jack Stubbs
The University of Washington’s South Campus, an area of the University that is home to many of the institution’s Health Sciences schools, is set for widespread changes in the coming months as 2018 Campus Master Plan (CMP) is put into effect.
The changes occurring on South Campus are part of a larger 700-acre renovation initiative that will affect 86 potential development sites throughout the University of Washington’s campus: there are up to 6 million net new gross square feet of development in the works across the four campus areas (Central, West, South and East).
Of the larger 6 million gross square foot development project, there are up to 1,350,000 net new gross square feet slated for South Campus, a figure that accounts for roughly a quarter of the total development planned at the University.
South Campus is home to the academic, research and clinical functions of the University’s six health sciences schools and the CMP proposes the long-term incremental redevelopment of much of the institution’s health sciences complex. As part of the CMP’s 10-year Conceptual Plan, the long-term vision for South Campus is to increase its development capacity and create a new state-of-the-art health sciences complex and academic medical center. Another of the objectives with the South Campus redevelopment is to connect the new buildings and improve access to the waterfront through the creation of the South Campus Green—which will be comprised of courtyards and terraces—and a waterfront trail. Finally, plans for South Campus aim to enhance pedestrian access and connections between South Campus and the other three campus areas, according to the CMP.
One of the main challenges with the plans for the South Campus redevelopment was how to balance the current needs of the academic departments while also recognizing the potential for future growth in the campus area, according to Theresa Doherty, senior project director of the 2018 CMP. “The whole key to the South Campus redevelopment is that it is basically creating a new space for those current users. It’s going to be a very long-term and difficult task…because all of the buildings are currently being used by the different Health Sciences schools and the Medical Center. Those are very active uses right now, but they’re in aging facilities,” she said.
With South Campus in particular, the existing infrastructure in the Health Sciences and medical buildings presented another unique challenge to the redevelopment plans, according to Doherty.
“If you look at it programmatically, all of the buildings are also connected with HVAC systems, and other systems that have to be rebuilt…[the challenge] is how we do that over time and still continue to use the spaces,” she said.
Another of the goals of the South Campus redevelopment—improving accessibility to the waterfront—was also made more difficult by the orientation of the existing academic buildings on the site. “We’re trying to create a physical space that works better for the users that are there right now. Right now, the Health Sciences and Medical Center are one long contiguous building,” Doherty said. “One of the goals is to break down the current building so that people can actually get down to the water,” she added. Additionally, the plans for South Campus—improving circulation and accessibility—align with one of the broader goals of the larger CMP, which is to improve pedestrian and bicycle circulation between the four separate sections of the campus. The hope is that the plans for South Campus will achieve this through the creation of the South Campus Green and by improving pedestrian circulation along Skamania Lane and the new proposed waterfront trail.
There are 20 potential development sites throughout South Campus and roughly 5 million gross square feet of potential development throughout the campus area. However, only 1.35 million square feet will ultimately be developed: the CMP planning team originally identified twice as many potential development sites and twice as much square footage in the CMP to enable flexibility for the institution’s academic departments moving forward.
With South Campus in particular, it was especially important to enable the flexibility of the academic departments given that so many of the University’s health sciences buildings sit in the South area of campus, according to Doherty. “Before we started working on the CMP, we did several studies on South Campus and engaged the different schools, colleges and the Medical Center to discuss their long-term needs and spatial requirements and what the spatial configurations of the buildings would be,” she said.
Several of the potential development sites throughout South Campus are new buildings related to the University’s health sciences department. Some of these include Hitchcock Hall Site, a 17-story roughly 154,000 square foot building; J Wing, an 11-story 254,000 square foot structure; and A and C Wing, another 17-story 218,500 square foot academic building. Other potential developments include a 260,000 square foot six-story parking garage and a 234,000 square foot health sciences clinic.
Ultimately, however, none of the sites on South Campus will be developed unless the academic departments have the funds to do so, according to Doherty. “As those funds come along, then those more serious discussions will start happening about which building sites might be the first to be considered or built on,” she said, also emphasizing that the current plans are only a broader long-term vision. Each year, the University applies for funds from the state for construction of development projects and then begins the design process.
Over the coming weeks ahead, the University’s CMP will continue to take shape. On January 16th, the CMP went before Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner, who issued 59 conditions and recommendations about the CMP relating to transportation, urban design and historic preservation issues. However, various community leaders are currently petitioning City Council to consider other design elements that might not have been reviewed at the meeting held in mid-January.
Doherty thinks that further progress and decisions about the plan will be made by the end of the month and that the CMP is still progressing on schedule. “We’re hoping that by the end of February, we’ll have another hearing and then there will be City Council meetings in March and April. So we’re still on track to have the final approval [for the plan] by summer of 2018,” she said.