UW plans to expand, making some neighbors nervous

A 10-year plan at the University of Washington could add 30 percent to the square footage of its buildings. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - The University of Washington is creating a blueprint for its future and neighbors and workers unions want to make sure their input is being considered.

A coalition concerned about the university’s 2018-2028 Campus Master Plan wants school and city officials to agree to a set of principles going forward.

The U-District Alliance said the draft master plan fails to address the housing, childcare and transportation problems facing the community.

“Those issue weren’t really addressed in the ways that we think would be meaningful,” said Karen Hart, President of Local 925 of the Service Employee International Union that represents 7,000 campus workers. “That’s why we are continuing to push the university."

The master plan, which the university must update periodically, is a conceptual proposal for planning purposes and isn’t a literal forecast of what will be built said Sally Clark, Director of External Affairs for the school.

“We know that every year we will have an increased demand for slots here at the university and the deal is we want to grow responsibly,” said Clark.

On a grand scale, the plan calls for a maximum of an additional 6 million square feet of building space. That’s an increase of 30 percent over what exists now.

Clark said the university has no plans to buy additional property, so all of the expansion would be on land it already owns. If build out, that would be an additional 85 buildings.

“There’s no chance that would happen,” said Clark. “We have to submit a plan to the city that reflects the most expansion possible."

Doug Campbell, owner of Bulldog News on University Avenue hopes the expansion doesn’t change the character of the “Ave."

“The neighborhood definitely does not want to become an office park,” said Campbell.

Clark said the most logical and realistic expansion would be toward the west of 15th Avenue, south of the business district where Bulldog News is located. The plan to expand the West Campus represents half of the university’s possible square footage increase.

“We want to be a residential neighborhood and continue to be a residential neighborhood with opportunities for people of all different income levels,” said Campbell.

Clark said the Campus Master Plan is intended to address campus land use issues, but not affordable housing for its workers.

“Its not a role that we’ve played before, so that conversation is certainly on the table and we are trying to figure out where it fits,” said Clark.

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