New year, new U New year, new U New year, new U

Development under way in the University District will create a welcoming new front door for the UW community.

By Ana Mari Cauce | Illustration by Anthony Russo | September 2023

When we talk about how the University of Washington can make a meaningful, positive impact in the world—the purest expression of our public mission—we often invoke the notion of our “power to convene.” But what do we mean by this? And how does it shape our role in the communities with which we are engaged?

Serving as a convener means that we can bring diverse stakeholders together in service of shared goals, like leading innovative collaborations that leverage the strengths of community members, faculty, students and the public and private sectors. But it also means building community through shared experiences that spark joy and passion, like the annual Bothell Block Party sponsored by our UW Bothell campus in partnership with community leaders, and UW Tacoma’s long-standing collaboration with the local YMCA to create a recreation center that serves students and the public. And shared experiences happen when we come together to root for our student-athletes and by restoring the historic ASUW Shell House—where the Boys in the Boat launched their 1936 Olympic bid—to host community gatherings.

To meet the needs of our community, including our neighbors, alumni, supporters and fans, we are working to create a truly welcoming campus where people live, play, work and learn. On our campus in Seattle, we are creating actual convening spaces to welcome new ideas and voices to our community.

Several years ago, the Seattle City Council approved the UW Seattle Campus Master Plan, a long-range vision that enables us to develop 3 million square feet west of the current campus from the U District to the waterfront, creating what will be known as Portage Bay Crossing. This area will be a mix of gathering spaces, academic and research facilities, affordable housing units and green space. There, students and faculty from disciplines including public health, clean energy, medicine, social work, public policy, the arts and humanities will be able to partner with business, government, nonprofits and the broader community to work on the big challenges we face.

In planning for the future, we know that our city urgently needs more affordable housing. That’s why the UW and the Seattle Housing Authority are developing a mixed-income high-rise of about 240 units west of campus. The building will provide child care space as well as much-needed housing near the UW and transit options.

In tandem with Portage Bay Crossing, we are also developing a UW Welcome Center in the U District. It will be the outcome of an innovative partnership between the University Book Store, the UW Alumni Association and the University. We envision it as a front door to the UW—a place for new friends to learn about the University and for old friends to gather and connect.

This is all happening at a pivotal time, as we look forward to the release of the “Boys in the Boat” feature film this winter and prepare to join the Big Ten Conference in August 2024. Our vision of creating welcoming new spaces will help us make the most of these extraordinary opportunities. By cultivating an urban landscape in which the UW is a welcoming place for everyone, we will build on our commitment to collaboration and public service. We look forward to seeing you there.