The next step the University of Washington Tacoma must take hinges on what’s happening now in the Legislature’s budget discussions.
The state Senate’s capital budget includes $16 million to fund the UWT’s Urban Solutions Center, a 40,000-square-foot building that is key to expanding the type of degree programs offered on the campus. The House capital budget does not include money for the project.
Building the Urban Solutions center would expand the amount of space for existing science and technology programs as well as provide labs and classrooms for new engineering and biomedical sciences degree programs. The biomedical sciences degree is especially important as it would educate students planning on careers in the medical, dental, pharmacy and veterinarian fields.
The expansion would help the UWT grow from 4,500 to 7,000 students in the next five to seven years. Currently it is on track by June to graduate more than 17,000 students since it opened 25 years ago.
That’s important for the South Sound, because most of those students stay here, continuing to contribute to the community. The campus already has more than $210 million annual economic impact on the region; expanding degree programs would only increase that.
Funding the project would also enhance the UWT campus by renovating the 1904 Tacoma Paper & Stationery Building, located between the Science Building and Dougan Building along both the Prairie Line Trail and Jefferson Avenue (it now houses the Old Spaghetti Factory).
It would be the last legacy historical warehouse to be refurbished as part of the original plan to turn Tacoma’s rundown warehouse district into an urban campus serving South Sound students.
The proposed renovation is innovative; it would be the first of UWT’s buildings to have its ground floor open up to the Prairie Line Trail.
When the other buildings on the trail were designed, the rail line was active, so the windows didn’t open up onto the corridor. Now that the landscaped trail is there, the Urban Solutions Center will take full advantage of it.
The UWT is already in the design phase for the renovation, having received $1.9 million for that in the current biennium’s budget. The next step is to fund the actual work. The South Sound delegation should not let this get lost in the mix.