UW Tacoma celebrates new home of Institute of Technolgy

It was a case of something old, something new Wednesday at the University of Washington Tacoma.

The old is the refurbished Pinkerton Building, constructed in the late 19th century, now home to the university’s Institute of Technology – something new.

Gov. Gary Locke, Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, UW Tacoma officials and other dignitaries were on hand to celebrate a milestone in the continuing expansion of the University of Washington Tacoma.

Designed to spur the development of new technology enterprises and attract related businesses to the area, the Institute of Technology was launched in 2001.

With the opening of the Pinkerton Building, Institute of Technology faculty and staff are now housed in a single location. The second and third floors of the three-story building contain offices, while the first floor features a classroom and two computer labs.

Speakers at the event praised the institute’s purpose and predicted it would have a positive impact on the economy of the region and the state.

“This program is in the opportunity business,” said Edward Lazowska, who holds the Bill and Melinda Gates chair in computer science in the department of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington.

While Washington state ranks high in terms of people who earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in high-technology fields, Lazowska noted there has been an exodus of such people from the state to look for jobs.

Part of the plan of the institute, he said, is to help drive the Puget Sound economy by keeping those people employed in the area.

Larry Crum, the institute’s director, agreed, saying the region “must grow talent at home,” especially now that the economy is sluggish.

“We have no time to be complacent,” he concluded.

“We can never do enough to offer opportunities to achieve the American Dream,” said Gov. Gary Locke, who in December 2000 proposed the state develop and institute of technology at the UW Tacoma.

From there, the proposal gained broad support from the Legislature and non-state agencies, eventually becoming a reality the following year.

“Education is an economic engine,” said the governor, a little over a week removed from his stint in the national spotlight. Locke delivered the Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union speech on Jan. 28.

“Partnerships like the one we celebrate today are important to our economic future,” Locke told the audience.

The institute’s new headquarters were refurbished with funds raised from private donations and contributions from non-state organizations.

More than $5 million has been raised as part of the public-private partnership that established the Institute of Technology.

“This is an incredible example of a public-private partnership,” Locke said, noting the first 40 graduates received bachelor’s degrees last summer.

Mayor Bill Baarsma – who joked that he and City Manager Ray Corpuz have concluded they have set a record for the number of ribbon cutting and groundbreaking ceremonies attended – repeated his by now familiar mantra: “Are we on a roll in Tacoma or what?”

He said the Institute of Technology is a good example of how city government, business leaders and education institutions can work together to help the community.

UW Tacoma Chancellor Vicky Carwein described the Pinkerton Building and the Institute of Technology as a place where commerce, transportation, history and education intersect.

The building itself, located at 1702 Broadway, was constructed in 1888-1889 by Col. John Pinkerton, making it the oldest building in the warehouse district.

The Pinkerton was for many years known as the Massasoit Hotel and catered to French immigrants and visitors.

It sat empty for a number of years until it was purchased and remodeled in 1982 by Moss Adams, a local accounting firm. UW Tacoma acquired the building from Moss Adams in 2001.

From there, the university renovated the Pinkerton, including a complete rewiring of the building to transform it into the new home of the Institute of Technology.

Architect Jim Merritt of the Tacoma firm Meritt Arch designed the work.
After speeches and a ceremonial ribbon cutting, guests toured the building.

Meanwhile, Phase 2B of construction at the UW Tacoma – the $41 million renovation of three warehouses on Pacific Avenue and two on C Street into classrooms and offices – continues.

When work on Phase 2B is completed in December, the UW Tacoma campus will have grown to over 400,000 square feet.

Praising the vision and leadership of Gov. Locke and the community for its support, Lee Huntsman, interim president of the University of Washington, said, “It’s been an amazing trajectory for this campus.”