UW News

June 5, 2008

Moving Cunningham: Committee looking for new site for one of University’s oldest buildings

News and Information

Cunningham Hall will be moving. And its future location has been narrowed to a few possibilities, with a decision on the recommended location due shortly.

A committee was appointed by Provost Phyllis Wise in April to recommend a new location; its report is due by the end of June.

The move is necessary because of the siting of a new molecular engineering building. That site, very close to where Cunningham is now, makes the building’s current location far from desirable, aesthetically and practically. A new, large building would dwarf the 5,000 square foot wood structure, which currently houses the Women’s Center, some units of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Women and Democracy program, and some other offices.

In addition, the work of the building’s inhabitants would be disrupted during the two-year construction phase of the new building, scheduled to begin late in 2009. The provost decided that relocating Cunningham was the best option.

But Cunningham is not just any campus building. Constructed for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, it is celebrating its centennial next year. It was the site of the state’s first Suffragette activity and today is the only designated “women’s building” in the state.

So the criteria for its new site were extensive and specific. The building needed to be relocated in a central location because of the services that it provides and because it often makes use of classroom space for some of its activities. The relocation committee wanted a space that was welcoming and appropriate for the building’s size and structural characteristics. Public transportation should be convenient. The building also needed a location where nighttime security could be provided, since the facility is often open until 10 p.m.

A complete description of the site selection criteria can be found <a href=http://dev.cpo.washington.edu/CHR/View.aspx?id=54>here</a>.

“We wanted a location that was equal to or better than what Cunningham Hall has now,” says Ruth Johnston, associate vice president of finance and facilities, who has chaired the committee.

Last week, the committee visited four potential sites. There was broad consensus that the preferred site is on the lawn southwest of Parrington Hall. Other sites still in the running include the Denny yard, north of Kane Hall; near Winkenwerder Hall and the Burke Gilman trail; and a site just east of the Medicinal Herb Garden. The final recommendation will take into consideration architectural issues, the ability to provide necessary infrastructure (plumbing and electricity) on the site, and the ability to move the building safely to its new location.

The committee will review these factors and make a final recommendation to the Provost on June 24. The Faculty Council on University Facilities and Services will be reviewing the committee’s findings, as will the President’s Advisory Committee on Women and the City/University Community Advisory Committee. The intent is to seek final site approval from the Board of Regents at the September meeting.

“Ruth Johnston and Sutapa Basu [director of the Women’s Center] put together a large and diverse committee, representing the interests of faculty and students,” says David Allen, chair of women studies. “Those of us who are seriously invested in the programs offered by the Women’s Center and see the centrality of its work have been pretty happy with the process. The preferred sites would keep Cunningham Hall and its programs embedded in the center of the University.”

“I have been pleased with the process as it has been very open and transparent,” says Basu. “Of course, many members from both the campus community and the larger community are sad about the relocation due to the fact that Cunningham Hall was built 100 years ago for women as part of the Alaska-Yukon Exposition. This is the oldest and only historic building for women in the state of Washington, so the building has a lot of historic significance and is known for its history of advancing the rights and voice of women.

“However, I am pleased with the three final relocation sites. Our preference is the campus option behind Parrington because the site meets all the criteria for the services the Women’s Center offers to our students, staff, faculty and to the larger community. The relocation will be the beginning of the celebration of the Next 100 years and a renewed commitment and chapter for the work of the Women’s Center.”

For more information on the Cunningham Hall relocation project, see here.