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The “Relationship” Building: SU realizes its place in the community

The Art Gallery in A&A (Photo by Lucas Anderson/

Next Saturday at 3pm, Seattle University will be proudly showing off its newest campus facility, the Admissions and Alumni building at the corner of 12th and Marion. Constructed in less than nine months, this LEED Gold structure is intended to be the first example of SU’s new approach to community engagement.

The first thing that strikes you when strolling the beautiful central walkway of Seattle University is how utterly removed it feels from the surrounding urbanity. Not to say this is bad, its a great place to escape the chaos of our modern metropolis. But when you look at Seattle University from either 12th or Broadway you can’t help but feel like your looking at its back; its as if the University has no interest in the community it calls home. But according to Director of Facilities Michael Kerns, over the next few years SU hopes to reshape itself and become an integral part of the rest of the neighborhood.

The area around SU was entirely different when the college first began. Much of the land was industrial, or owned by the city. In this context SU worked hard to create a welcoming place in the midst of its campus. But now, as the surroundings have become much more dynamic Kerns says its time that SU became a more prominent part of the neighborhood.

The Coca-Cola Building repurposed (Photo by Lucas Anderson/

Nothing embodies this more than SU’s new Admissions and Alumni Building, or as Kerns likes to put it, the “relationship” buidling. He says the building was designed to promote a comfortable environment for anyone engaging with Seattle University. Unlike most of the University’s buildings, the A&A building actually faces the commercial street of 12th Ave. With a minimal set-back and lots of transparent glass windows, the building stands in stark contrast to the University Services Building, set far off the street and nestled in thick landscaping.

The corner of the A&A building was designed as a community gathering space. The layout, with tables on one end, couches on the other, and benches around the perimeter, allow it to easily accommodate any style of community event. The huge windows are intended to engage the outside world, allowing people to easily see whats going on inside, and even join if its public. Even before next week’s official opening, at least 3 different community groups from Capitol Hill and the Central District have held events here. SU has also agreed to offer all future Capitol Hill Design Review meetings in the building, a much better venue than the hard-to-find classrooms somewhere in Seattle Central Community College.

Public Plaza off Marion St. (Photo by Lucas Anderson/

Other features of the building also embody the community spirit. Much of the space that faces 12th Ave is a public gallery with paintings and art pieces visible from the street. People are invited to come in and view the art anytime during building hours. In the back of the building there is also a small public plaza with an entrance on Marion. While there are design features that delineate the building space from the public right-of-way there is no fence or gate that is closed after hours.

While the A&A building is the most visible, Kerns points out that there have been other projects SU has done over the summer to improve its presence in the neighborhood. The old Coca-Cola building on 14th Ave was turned into the Interim Library, compelling students to explore a bit farther out than SU’s central campus. They also painted Ballermine Residence Hall, hoping to break up its imposing facade.

SU is already in the process of constructing another building on 12th. A new student housing structure is going up at 12th and Cherry and will have retail uses as well as open up to the new park on the lot just to the South. As reported earlier there are also plans to adapt the huge warehouse at12th and Madison into a more pedestrian-friendly structure.

Alumni and Admissions Building Public Opening

Date: October 17th, 2009

Time: 3:00pm-4:00pm

Location: A&A Building, 12th and Marion

There will be a short tour of the building followed by food and drinks.

Note: This event is timed in conjunction with the Capitol Hill Community Council’s Mayoral Candidate Forum. So you can get a tour, grab some snacks, and have time to be political active!

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2 thoughts on “The “Relationship” Building: SU realizes its place in the community

  1. Yes, wish of wishes – grad school forever.

    SU has a new energy in the last decade and a growing place on
    the list of top students.