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UWT Master Plan Update

University of Washington Tacoma has been growing both in physical footprint and number of students and faculty on campus. And the University intends to keep on growing, with an enrollment goal somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 students, and a list of recently added degree programs including Sustainable Urban Development, Hispanic Studies, Law and Policy, Writing Studies, Masters in Accounting, Masters in Cyber Security and Leadership, and EdD in Educational Leadership. 

On Tuesday the City Council heard an update on the UWT Master Plan, which will guide the growth of the campus needed to accomodate all that academic growth.

The next phase of development for UWT will see the campus continue its march up the hillside, bringing Market Street within the acitivated space of campus in the next five to seven years. A few new buildings are planned, but the University will continue to place a heavy emphasis on not only preserving the historic structures within its footprint, but on activating them as usable spaces on campus.

Recently completed work included one new building, and the renovation of a couple more.

  • The Joy Building on Pacific is filling up, with several restaurants already open or on the verge of opening.
  • The new Tioga Library Building is the most recent built by the University, and probably the last that will be built primarily with state funds on the campus in the foreseeable future.
  • The Whitney Church has just been renovated, and will serve as the University's arts center.

Any development in the next 3 to 7 years comes at a time when state funding for such projects has significantly declined. That means UWT will be looking to creative development strategies and partnerships to get any new projects completed.

Prairie Line Trail – Original plans were for construction on the PLT to get underway this year, but it was determined that it would be better to wait until summer 2014 to give the contractor the time to do the work. One phase of the project, which removed dirty soil, was completed this fall. The new plan is for bidding to take place in January, with construction beginning as soon after the bid is awarded as weather permits. Completion is now anticipated for September 2014.

Tacoma Paper and Stationary - This building, located next to the Dougan Building on Jefferson is the last of the legacy warehouses on campus to get rehabilitated. The University has received funding for the design phase, which will go ahead in the next year. UWT will request $20 million in funding from the state, but the bulk of funding for the project will come from local contributions, gifts, or borrowing by the University. The project will be costly, as seismic and other abatement issues mean it must be taken down to the timbers. If all goes well, design could be complete in 2014, and construction could begin as early as 2015, putting the building on track for occupancy by 2017.

Vacant lots on Jefferson south of Pinkerton and Court 17 – These future development sites got a $70,000 clean up, improving them into more attractive open spaces on campus while they await more specific plans.

Intersection at 17th and Broadway - The intersection where 17th, Broadway, and Jefferson come together will get some streamlining, including improved vehicle and pedestrian markings to improve safety. We can expect to see action on this in the near future.

University Y – This partnership between UWT and the YMCA will provide a brand new facility for both students and general Y members, and University student members will have access to the Y's other facilities as well. Design work is already underway, and the whole project, from idea to opening is expected to take less than three years.

Pacific Avenue retail – Retail space is a major component of many of the projects planned, and continues to be an important part of UWT's interface with the rest of downtown Tacoma. The inherent lack of density in much of the space around the campus (i.e. the Port and waterways), retail along Pacific will likely need to be a destination shopping spot for the foreseeable future if it is to succeed. The University would like to activate the Pacific Avenue face of campus with more color and increased active use of the sidewalks and storefronts. They hope to work out a master agreement with the City for what such street uses look like, covering the whole strip, rather than negotiating design standards on a parcel-by-parcel basis.

Swiss Hall  – The University will treat the renovation of the building that currently houses the Swiss and the adjoining building as a unit. Although the Swiss operates in one part of this block, a significant portion of the building is crumbling. The end goal of redevelopment would be mixed-use - at least half retail, with offices. No funding has been secured for this project yet, and the University is open to creative solutions, possibly putting the project through an RFP process for private developers.

Old Tioga Building – Attached to the recently constructed Tioga Library Building, again, these buildings would ultimately be treated as a block. Due to funding constraints, it's likely that UWT would renovate the older building one floor at a time.

McDonald-Smith Building – Located between Cherry Parkes and the Harmon building, this building will also be brought up to speed over time, as would the small wedge of buildings that includes the space where Grassi's operated until recently.

The Master Plan considers the campus as a whole in terms of accessibility, parking, transportation, and SEPA and other considerations. Elevation will continue to pose a significant challenge, which the University plans to tackle in part by giving every building two entrances - one uphill, one downhill. Other important considerations include a continued commitment to sustainability, and to integrating UWT into the fabric of downtown Tacoma as an urban university. It sounds like the one-time plan to close 19th between Market and Fawcett has been scrapped.

One thing UWT doesn't anticipate is a huge need for student housing. The percentage of students currently living downtown is quite small, and the University anticipates that until the area in general becomes more attractive to residential use, it will continue to see a relatively small number of students living nearby.

All in all it's a pretty big plan...


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