The number of science and technology majors at Seattle University is surging, and the school is planning a new building to house them all. The project will continue the school’s recent trend of developing its edges and creating new buildings that connect more solidly to the surrounding neighborhood blocks.
There are about 1,200 students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields at Seattle U right now, said Michael Quinn, dean of the College of Science and Engineering. Quinn expects that number to grow to nearly 1,600 by 2023, about double from the 900 students they’d had in 2009.
He noted the emphasis on STEM classes in high schools as one driver of the uptick, not to mention Seattle’s proximity to a number of large tech businesses. Computer science, Quinn said, has seen the biggest growth, and is the largest major in the College of Science and Engineering.
That level of growth is demanding new space, and that will require the sacrifice of the existing University Services Building at 12th and Marion. In its place will rise a five-story, 109,000-square-foot building. There will be a pair of large classrooms on the ground floor. Additionally, the building will house 13 teaching labs and five research labs for chemistry and biology, project rooms and research space for computer science, a maker’s space open to all University students, a commons and a café.
The maker’s space will be open to any university student, Quinn said, and should allow for students to use anything from simple tools to 3D printers for projects including things as common as making jewelry or fixing a bike.
Quinn hopes students from other majors and departments will use the space, too, and give a chance for English majors and budding engineers to collaborate on a project.
“We don’t want it to be the exclusive preserve of engineering geeks,” Quinn said.
The idea of opening up the design to other kinds of students permeated the building. Some research labs were placed on the top floor, and core classes will be taught in the advanced chemistry labs. The hope is it might demystify the subjects for students in other courses of study.
“You can really see what science is like,” said Lara Branigan, director of design and construction
For Capitol Hill residents who don’t go to Seattle University, the building is being designed with an eye toward better activating the space along 12th Ave, Branigan said.
The new building will also house the university’s Center for Community Engagement, which runs the Seattle University Youth Initiative. The building will also make it more obvious that there’s an active university campus in a way similar to the opening of the new college store at the corner on Madison shows off to the community as well as the school’s project to create a 10-story mixed dorm and offices building currently under construction on E Madison. Seattle U plans for the first two floors of the under-construction Vi Hilbert Hall to be the new home for the Enrollment Services offices while the top eight floors of the project will serve as a new residence hall with around 300 beds for juniors and seniors.
“I think we’ll establish, now, a presence,” Branigan said.
The campus radio station KXSU will also be in the new Center for Science and Innovation building, perched right over the entrance.
“They are a community radio station, so now they can see the community,” Branigan said.
Construction is expected to start in summer 2019 and the university expects the building to be open in time for the fall quarter of 2021. By 2028, the school plans to expand its boundaries by 2.4 acres with 2 million square feet added to the campus in new development. The $105 million project is still not fully funded, so the timeline may yet slip, though Branigan said fundraising is going well.
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