UW News

December 11, 2004

Campus Parkway project gets green light

They’re down to the finishing touches.

The University Way revitalization project that began in August 2002 is mostly finished. What remains is an effort to spruce up the intersection of University Way, or the Ave, and Campus Parkway.

The Campus Parkway median has long been a sore subject among those interested in maintaining a beautiful campus. A patch of lawn that routinely turned brown in the dry Seattle summers and a collection of overhead wires never proved to be the inviting front doorstep to campus that UW officials longed for. That’s about to change, according to Bill Talley, the University’s longtime campus landscape architect.

“We’re going to create a place of celebration right outside our campus,” he said. 

 This artist’s drawing indicates how the Campus Parkway median might look when the project is completed during spring quarter.

By the end of the spring quarter there will be a grove of medium-sized flowering trees planted on either side of the median. Down the middle of the space will run a sidewalk that branches into two walkways enveloping an area that will be used as a sort of showcase for the arts.

“That space could be used for traveling exhibits, it could be an adjunct to the Henry Gallery, we just don’t know for sure yet,” Talley said.

What we do know is students will take a lead role in designing the space. About 30 students from the Program on Public Art will lead the effort to spruce up the retaining walls and the walkways that surround the display space in the middle of the median. It will be an invaluable learning experience for students in the program, according to John Young, a School of Art professor and one of the instructors for the interdisciplinary program.

“The whole idea is to run students through the entire professional process, which is giving voice to a community,” Young said.

Students will hear input from the community, then will come up with a design. They’ll have to get approval from the community and complete construction within an 11-week period.

On either end of the median will be flower beds with space for both perennials and annuals.

And the median west of the Ave will be less formal, with an array of trees much like the space further west toward the University Bridge.

The project, Talley said, has been successful because of strong partnerships with the University, the U-District community and the city. Longtime neighborhood activist Patty Whisler played a key role, as did the city’s Department of Neighborhoods, according to Talley. The interested parties held three design charettes where there was surprisingly little dissent.

Improving the median has been a part of the UW master plan for several years, but funding the effort has always been a problem. Participants in the charettes explored the idea of scaling down the scope of the project. That decision proved to be crucial in jump-starting the effort that’s about to come to fruition.

“We finally realized that we better take this just as it is,” Talley said. “So we’re not going to move any curbs, we’re not going to reroute traffic, we’re not going to change much because there’s no money for that kind of stuff. So we started talking about how we could make it work within what it already was.”

The result was a relatively modest price tag of $300,000, most of which will be picked up by the city. The UW will pay for trees and will continue to maintain the city property as it has done for the last 50 years.