The last campus master plan, completed in 2003, laid out the development of 3.0 million gross square feet, of which all but 211,000 square feet currently remains to be built. The 2018 Plan calls for 6.0 million square feet of net new development which the plan describes as completing “full build-out” of the Seattle campus. 85 potential development sites are identified with a maximum buildable allowance of 12.9 million square feet altogether. The formation and refining of the CMP is especially timely considering the proposed U-District rezone which is directly adjacent to campus and is slated to create up to 5,000 new housing units. Both rezones are critical to accommodating the projected 8,675 additional students UW will enroll by 2028. The CMP may need to get more aggressive with growth with the news that the most recent tweaks to the U-District rezone have scaled back total developable capacity.
Still there are causes for urbanist concern. One of the core standards guiding all development on campus is to “provide adequate light, air, access, and open space [and] conserve the natural environments and historic resources.” Accordingly, many of the graphics in the CMP illustrate plans for buildings that use up much less space than the maximum buildable envelope through tower spacing rules and required setbacks in order to maintain “pedestrian scale daylight & views.” Encouragingly, though, new developments will aim to have “public-facing ground floor uses” to create active corridors. One of the main reasons given for restricting building heights, especially in East Campus, is to preserve waterfront views from Central Campus.
The plan divides campus into four main sectors: Central, West, East and South Campus. The 2018 CMP envisions intensive development in the three sectors outside Central Campus in order to preserve “historic assets,” existing open space and “campus character” in the core. This presents a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges unique to each sector which are explored below.