Transforming Campus Life

By Soon Beng Yeap
fitness 550
Architect's rendering of the recreational center.Photo Credit:

Seattle University today announced construction of a new fitness center and residence hall, adding to the roster of sustainable building projects that will improve the student experience and engage the surrounding neighborhood.

“This is truly exciting news for the university – our first new residence hall in 20 years and a modern recreational facility,” said Jacob Diaz, vice president for Student Development. “If you couple this with our new library and learning commons, the changes to our campus are the most significant in decades.”

Despite challenges posed by the recession, the university has moved forward with $100 million in projects. A new $10 million annex for the School of Law opened recently. The centerpiece of campus renewal comes this fall with the opening of the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, a major expansion and reinvention of the library in modern learning and scholarship.

The $10 million fitness center, an expansion to the Connolly Center, will include two floors for cardio and weight machines, a group exercise space and offices for staff and student organizations. This is the first major expansion to the Connolly Center since its construction in 1964. The contractor for the project is Mortenson Construction and the architect is Olson Kundig Architects. Construction of the center begins this fall, with an opening scheduled for fall 2011.

The new residence hall is being built through a unique partnership with the Seneca Group and is slated for completion in summer 2011, as expanding enrollment creates a need for more student housing. The $25 million project, called the The Douglas, will provide a home for about 250 students. As part of the innovations of this project, the ground level will feature retail space for local businesses and create a lively streetscape.

The university consulted with its neighbors, including the Squire Park Community Council, on the residential hall design. The building includes a number of sustainable features, such as a rain water detention system, energy efficient light fixtures and low-flow plumbing fixtures. This is the first new residence hall at SU since 1990.

“This project represents a major investment in the revitalization of the 12th Avenue corridor,” said Michael Kerns, associate vice president of Facilities Administration. “These additions to our campus will improve the student experience and the neighborhood.”

Through a long-term agreement, Seneca Group is developing the project and a private entity will own the building upon completion. Seattle University retains ownership of the land. The project was designed by Hewitt Architects and is being constructed by Walsh Construction Company.

“The Seneca Group is proud to be a part of this exciting project, and to contribute to a building that will be an enhancement to the SU community,” said Amy Worthington of the Seneca Group. “We’ve worked with SU to create a design that will be attractive, functional and sustainable.”

The transformation of Seattle U is described in the 2009-10 President’s Report.

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