UW News

April 22, 2010

Resetting a campus ‘gem’: Newer, bigger Ethnic Cultural Center coming in 2012

UW News

Years in the planning, the replacement of the UW’s Ethnic Cultural Center (ECC) is set to begin this winter and finish in 2012 — and the center’s many patrons could not be more pleased.

Work is expected to start in December on a three-story, 26,250-square-foot building to replace the current Ethnic Cultural Center, at 3931 Brooklyn Ave. NE, which was opened in 1972.

The new building, being designed by Seattle-based Rolluda Architects in association with McFarland Marceau Architects of Vancouver, B.C., is expected to be completed in March of 2012, at a total project cost of $15.5 million. It’s designed to qualify for silver status in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, sponsored by the United States Green Building Council.

The new center will have administrative and student offices, conference rooms and club rooms, a computer lab, a commercial-quality kitchen, a performing arts studio, plenty of gathering space and — of course — universal access for the disabled.

“We lovingly joke that it took 38 years,” said center Director Victor Flores, referring to how long the ECC has been on campus. “But in all seriousness, it’s part of a project that’s been roughly about four years in the planning.” He said it was determined during a feasibility study that replacing the building would be more cost-effective than remodeling it.

The plan dates back approximately to when Sheila Edwards Lange succeeded Rusty Barcelo as vice president for minority affairs and vice provost for diversity. “When Sheila came on board, the students asked her to investigate what could be done to make the campus more welcoming to populations of color,” Flores said.

Lange spoke to that in a community meeting on the construction project held April 8 across the street at the Ethnic Cultural Theatre. “The students are the reason why we even have the ECC,” Lange said. “The students challenged us to do a better job.”

Groups using the center will move to a new, temporary home on the seventh floor of Condon Hall. There, they will share part of the floor with Health Promotions, a part of the Hall Health Primary Care Center. Flores said at the community meeting that though there will be a transition, he expects the center to run at about “90 percent efficiency.” He said, “We’re going to do our best to try to be as transparent and seamless as possible.”

That transparency is evident; the center is maintaining a running blog about the construction project, and there’s a YouTube video with Lange, Flores and Project Manager John Wetzel of the UW Capital Projects Office discussing the construction.

To rev up student awareness and enthusiasm about the project, folks at the center are also creating lip-synching videos called Lip Dubs about the place and its work. What’s a Lip Dub? You can watch one in YouTube here and learn more about them online here. There are also Facebook groups for the center and the LipDub project.

Lange told those gathered for the April 8 meeting, “The ECC, at least for me, has been that link between home life, the University and careers (students) expect to have afterwards.” She said the new building “will continue the work the current building has done for almost 40 years — continue that work on a much grander scale.”

Flores stressed that though the ECC is designed with students of color in mind, it’s open to all at the UW.

“We welcome the University to utilize this valued resource, this gem of a building,” Flores said.