UW Tacoma opens new Science, Keystone buildings

The University of Washington Tacoma continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down.

Yesterday, UW Tacoma officially opened two new buildings – the Science Building and the Keystone Building – at a dedication ceremony attended by university officials, U.S. Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) and Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) and Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma.

Those on hand lauded the new buildings for improving educational opportunities and boosting the regional economy.

“This has been a priority of ours that has been realized,” UW Tacoma Chancellor Vicky Carwein said. “Our science students will now be educated in the best building.”

The three-story, 48,000-square-foot Science Building offers a host of amenities for professors and students alike, providing a dramatic expansion of opportunities for scientific study and research in the region.

The Science Building houses chemistry, geology and biology labs, as well as a greenhouse. The building’s computer classrooms and computer labs include over 300 computers, 264 of which are brand new, state-of-the-art machines. The building has room for up to 16 faculty members as well.

University of Washington President Richard McCormick said the new building would increase the percentage of students engaged in research, adding this is a “harbinger of great innovations to come.”

The two-story, 13,500-square-foot Keystone Building features a Teaching and Learning Center for students and faculty, as well as UW Tacoma’s largest room, a 160-seat auditorium that was the site of the dedication’s ceremonial ribbon cutting.

A second-story pedestrian skybridge spanning active railroad tracks connects the two buildings.

The $38.4 million project, which was funded by the Legislature in 1999, is just the latest milestone for a campus that hasn’t stopped expanding since it opened in 1990 with 176 students.

UW Tacoma now has 2,000 students and graduates more than 500 students each year. Over the last five years, the campus has grown an average of 16 percent, with the growth rate expected to go up in the future.

Beyond the educational opportunities afforded by the new buildings, UW Tacoma’s continuing expansion is helping to revitalize downtown’s south end.

U.S. Rep Norm Dicks, who represents the 6th District and helped secure federal funding for UW Tacoma, said the University of Washington receives more federal funding for research than any other public institution in the nation.

“I think that says something about the quality of the work,” he said.

Dicks continued: “I believe this project is absolutely fundamental to our progress as a city. We want to help this great university grow in Tacoma.”

“It all starts with the university,” U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, 9th District, said of UW Tacoma’s ability to help grow the local economy and improve the quality of life. “You need the human capital to get people down here.”

Mayor Bill Baarsma said UW Tacoma was at the heart of downtown Tacoma’s “economic, cultural and architectural renaissance.”

The completion of the two buildings is the end of Phase 2A construction. Up next is the $41 million Phase 2B that includes renovating three connected warehouses along Pacific Avenue, as well as the Lindstrom Building and Mattress Factory along C Street, behind the Harmon Building. These five historic warehouses will become 100,000 square feet of classrooms, lab and office space.

State budget problems and a slowing economy prompted Gov. Gary Locke to put Phase 2B on hold last fall, but the project is back on track, with construction set to begin in August.