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UWT plans for 2020 growth goals

Renovations, more build-outs planned on downtown Tacoma university campus

Pat Clark, director of campus planning and real estate for UWT, points out future development sites on a campus map. To his left is the university’s director of external relations, Mike Wark.

Pat Clark, director of campus planning and real estate for UWT, points out future development sites on a campus map. To his left is the university’s director of external relations, Mike Wark.

photo by Katie Scaff

With the influx of 400 to 500 more students, 10 to 50 staff and 30 faculty members each year for the next six years, University of Washington Tacoma has its space expansion work cut out for it.

Finding the class and office space for the incoming 450 employees and nearly 2,700 students has been the focus for director of campus planning and real estate Pat Clark, who was hired at the start of this year.

“My team is in a process right now to look at the entire campus,” Clark said. “So, to look at the entire campus, based on current inventory of space, if that’s all built out, what’s the capacity it could sustain? And then identifying, what’s the gap? What’s the additional construction that’s going to have to take place? And, then, start looking at greenfield development, new construction.”

The McDonald Smith building, on the southeast corner of the campus on Pacific Avenue, and the Tioga building, located to it on the west and next to the library on Jefferson Avenue, are the first targets for expansion.

The renovation project is currently out for design bid with an estimated budget of $5 million to $8 million. McDonald Smith, a four-story, almost 35,000-square-foot historic brick building, is currently home to retail and residential tenants, as well as university office space. Retail and commercial users also occupy Tioga, a four-story, 19,000-square-foot building.

“We’re doing an accelerated design,” Clark said. “McDonald-Smith and Tioga will be a little different just because: one, it will be self-funded within the campus, and the intent is to do some initial space build-out, so there really won’t be any facade work. There may be some fenestration work, like window work or roof work, if it’s needed early. But, the initial scope is to really meet some of the campus growth requirements, to house approximately 30 new faculty, some classrooms, some student queuing areas.”

While a design team is set to be picked this month, Clark also plans to develop a master plan for these spaces by the end of the August.

“What’s the best plan going forward? What’s the best use of those spaces given their configuration? Are they best for classroom, office, combination?” he explained. “The set plan is so many offices to be defined by next fall of 2015, and then to basically get a game plan. Here’s the best way to go about building out the rest of the space.”

Identifying funding streams will also be a crucial part of planning moving forward “because they’re not going to be state funded,” said Mike Wark, director of external relations for the university in Tacoma. “Now that the campus is getting older, we’re taking some different approaches.”

Also, in the early years, UWT depended on state funding for its projects. There’s a traditional pattern for how a campus grows out, and, as it grew, it would get a building to support that growth.

“Well, the state’s no longer in a position to provide as much support. We’re looking for creative ways to build out the campus to suit our needs,” Wark said. “So, we’re seeing more innovative projects. The design-build project, the Y, what Pat described as how we’re working on the Tioga and the McDonald Smith.”

The Tacoma Paper & Stationary building — currently home to The Old Spaghetti Factory and the next site for renovations after Tioga and McDonald Smith — will also be a unique project.

The university is looking into state funding to cover about half the construction costs and internal funds to cover the remainder of the estimated $35 million endeavor. Seattle’s Miller Hull has been selected as the designer, but the timeline for the project will depend on the arrival of funding.

After that, the school plans to look at the field south of Court 17 Apartments, as well as the space south of the Pinkerton building, just to the east.

Clark’s strategic plan will explore uses for these sites.

“Kind of looking forward at the next five years,” he explained. “So, kind of looking at the 2008 master plan, and say based on the master plan, what do we implement next? What would the size of a greenfield development be? Is that 75,000 square feet? 125,000 square feet? “

The campus currently has 636,700 square feet of academic space divided among 48 general-use classrooms, 11 computer labs, 10 lab classrooms and six conference rooms. Though the exact plans for expansion have yet to be finalized, the university anticipates adding 26 general-use classrooms, four computer labs, three lab classrooms and two conference rooms, increasing the number of rooms across campus from 75 to 100 by 2020.

“The rule of thumb is about 30 offices per year, so that’s probably about 30 faculty,” Clark said. “But that number could accelerate, if you have an explosion of programs.”

Commercial and residential tenants will have to vacate as the university moves forward with its plans. Retail tenants, such as Bleach, Urban Exchange and Do The Extraordinary, all within the McDonald-Smith building, won’t be affected.

“It’s always been known with the tenants that as the campus expanded that they would be given notice and they would move out, and we’re talking with our tenants now about that project,” Clark said, specifically of McDonald Smith building tenants.

As tenants have left the building, the university has withheld filling the spaces. Three of the fifteen units are vacant.

Commercial office tenants, all of whom are on month-to-month leases, occupy Tioga’s 19,000 square feet. As the building goes into renovation, they’ll be asked to vacate. Metro Coffee, located there, will remain on campus.

This growth will also occur alongside development on Pacific Avenue corridor.

The corner space at 1702 Pacific Avenue, formerly occupied by Grassi’s Flowers & Gifts, is being gutted as the university finalizes a lease with Seattle-based Elemental Pizza.

The university is working on filling the small adjacent space in the Joy building, as well as two vacancies to the south along the corridor.

“We started with 176 students in 1990,” explained Wark. “Last fall we had 4,300. This coming fall we’ll be upwards of 4,800 students, somewhere in there. Our plan is to grow to 7,000 students by 2020. A lot of things have to happen, to fall into place.”