New residence halls are first part of west campus urban village

The University of Washington’s plan to turn its west campus into an urban village will take a big step this fall with the opening of two new residence communities.

Students who in the spring toured Poplar Hall, a traditional-style residence hall, and Cedar Apartments, are raving about the green-built facilities that feature amenities such as private bathrooms, glass entryways, customizable furniture and lots of natural light.

And that’s just the start. The new residence halls, which are part of a 20-year, $800 million capital plan, will be part of an urban village the University is creating near N.E. Campus Parkway, a few blocks west of 15th Avenue N.E.

Featuring a wellness center, auditorium, gathering spaces, a restaurant and a neighborhood market, these new residence halls are a far cry from the dorms with bolted-down furniture and shared bathrooms down the hall.

“We want to enhance the student experience,” says Pam Schreiber, the UW’s director of Housing & Food Services (HFS).

The opening of Poplar Hall, on N.E. Campus Parkway, and Cedar Apartments, at the corner of N.E. 41st Street and 12th Avenue N.E., is the first phase of the project that will help the UW deal with overcrowding in residence halls and an increasing demand for on-campus housing. But there’s even more to it.

“The new buildings,” says Chris Jaehne, assistant director for residential life, “offer well-designed community space where students will want to be—to study, visit with friends, or just hang out.”

By placing residence halls in what is called the “west campus,” the University is working to create an urban village where students get the best of both campus and city life.

“It harkens back to the idea of main street,” says Rob Lubin, associate director for facilities and capital planning for HFS. “Students living there will have excellent access to the future light rail station; to buses and businesses in the University District.”

At the same time Cedar and Poplar halls are about to open, Mercer Hall will close and be torn down in July, pending approval from the Board of Regents. In Fall 2012, two more residence halls (Elm Hall and Alder Hall) will open. In addition to creation of new communities, the capital plan includes renovation of the existing residence halls.