The UW Board of Regents and the Seattle City Council both approved a 10-year UW master plan in May that includes 43 new projects. The construction projects would add 2.2 million gross square feet to the campus, about the amount of space for rent in New York’s Empire State Building.
Officially titled the General Physical Development Plan, the master plan is conceptual. Not necessarily all of the projects will be built, but it represents the maximum possible construction by 2001. Other projects may be substituted for those listed if the UW’s priorities change. Seven projects from a 1985 master plan are carried over in the new campus blueprint.
The need for new facilities is not driven by higher enrollment, but rather the deteriorating quality of the UW’s existing buildings, particularly its science and engineering structures. A 1988 report found that these facilities were overcrowded and inadequate for 21st century science. The new buildings are essential for attracting and keeping top faculty and students.
Among the buildings already underway or in the design phase are:
Traffic management is a key element of the agreement, which commits the UW to preventing peak period traffic from increasing beyond 1989 levels during the life of the plan. The innovative U-PASS program, which allows students, faculty and staff to purchase a bus pass at a nominal cost, has already cut down on the flow of UW-related traffic throughout the “U” District and Montlake Bridge.
For example, 73 percent of the campus population has a U-PASS and peak period car trips to campus are down 15 percent. Even UW parking lots are less crowded, with lot use dropping from 91 percent of capacity to 78 percent. In addition, the number of students who drive alone to campus has dropped by 50 percent.
The UW is conducting a separate, supplemental planning process for Southwest Campus after the city suggested the UW develop additional alternatives for the area, roughly bound by Pacific Street to the north, 15th Avenue to the east and Portage Bay to the south and west. The draft plans and alternatives, including supplemental environmental review, should be ready before the end of the year.
While the major points of the new master plan met with both regental and city council approval, there are conditions to which the UW has concurred but taken exception. Sticking points include requiring the UW to fund residential parking zones and its “fair share” of city capital projects beyond the boundaries of campus. The UW also is concerned about limits on off-campus leasing space and a clause that restricts the way one project may be substituted for another in the plan.