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UW Regents’ Recent Approval of 11-Story Development Marks the Latest Chapter for University of Washington

University of Washington, University of Washington Board of Regents, Wexford Science + Technology
Rendering of the W27 site, viewing from the Burke-Gilman TrailWexford Science + Technology

By Jack Stubbs

The University of Washington, founded in 1861 approximately a decade after the founding of Seattle, is one of the oldest universities on the West Coast. Despite its storied history, the University has no intention to rest on its laurels and it continues to break new ground to expand its reach throughout the Emerald City as another recent development – one of several over the last several years – takes shape.

In mid-March, the University of Washington Board of Regents, which supervises, coordinates, manages, and regulates the university, approved the development plan for the first major project in the UW’s newly named Portage Bay Crossing area, which is on the west side of the Seattle campus.

The University’s media relations department did not respond to requests for comment regarding the development in time for the publishing of this story.

According to a statement released by the University, Wexford Science + Technology LLC will develop and manage an 11-story building totaling about 340,000 rentable square feet of lab, office, collaboration and retail space. The UW’s Clean Energy Institute, Brotman Baty Institute and Institute for Protein Design are also slated to occupy a significant amount of the space.

The Board of Regents approved a ground lease of the property at Site W27 to Wexford – a Baltimore, Maryland-based real estate company that partners with universities, academic medical centers and research companies to develop mixed-use projects – and a lease of building space by University of Washington, according to a statement released by the university.

Portage Bay Crossing, the latest development slated for the university’s campus, marks a significant milestone for the institution’s continued expansion. “This is a significant milestone for the UW and we are so excited to expand into the area west of campus and begin to define Portage Bay Crossing as a new place for discovery and innovation,” said the university’s vice president for facilities Lou Cariello in the statement. “We envision this as a lively and vibrant place with a mix of academic, arts, culture and retail spaces where students, researchers and others can engage in support of the UW’s learning, research, health care and public service missions.”

In addition to the university’s excitement at the prospect of further expanding its campus, future tenants of the project look forward to continuing to collaborate with the university in the longer term, as it continues to address local and national issues regarding the climate crisis.

“The Clean Energy Institute is excited to have the Regents approve this project in Portage Bay Crossing,” said director of the Clean Energy Institute and professor of chemical engineering Daniel Schwartz in the statement. “In recent years, the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds have attracted about 600 facility users from the UW and other research organizations across the state and nation who work side by side with a group of roughly 60 companies. The dynamic environment in this new space will unleash Washington students, faculty and companies to create home-grown technologies that can scale solutions to address the climate crisis.”

Ultimately, the hope is that projects like that in Portage Bay will continue to set a benchmark when it comes to expanding the university’s renowned department of medicine, a goal to which the prospective tenants will undoubtedly contribute. “This is a momentous opportunity for two of UW Medicine’s significant and thriving institutes,” said Ruth Mahan, chief business officer and chief of staff at UW Medicine and the UW’s vice president for medical affairs. “Placing the Brotman Baty Institute and the Institute for Protein Design in one location will provide each with space to grow, enhance collaborations between them and accelerate translation of discoveries into effective treatments.”

The broader vision for Portage Bay Crossing, according to the release, is to create a place where students, faculty, and experts across various fields – including public health, engineering, life sciences, social work, public policy, the humanities, physical sciences and environmental studies – can partner with business, government, nonprofit organizations and the Seattle community to solve critical challenges.

In addition to the most recent advances made with regards to Portage Bay Crossing, the University of Washington has over the last couple of years been busy ensuring that its already-noticeable footprint continues to expand.

In April 2021, UW announced that its Center for Population Health – a 300,000 square foot project designed by Miller Hull Partnership, Lease Crutcher Lewis and Site Workshop, among others – had been completed ahead of schedule and under budget, an achievement made even more noteworthy considering the pandemic-related issues plaguing the local real estate community at the time.

Earlier this year, in February 2022, Amazon and UW announced the founding of the UW-Amazon Science Hub, a collaboration for which the tech behemoth will fund collaborative research, education, and outreach programs.

As projects like Portage Bay Crossing, and those before it, contribute to the growth of the University of Washington’s presence in the Emerald City, it seems that the future is bright for one of the city’s foremost academic institutions.