Lawsuit Update: April 1 Superior Court Hearing

Lawsuit Update: April 1 Superior Court Hearing

As we reported in our previous blog post, the University of Washington is pursuing legal action, arguing that as a state institution of higher learning, it should not be subject to the City of Seattle's Landmark Preservation Ordinance. The UW uses our landmark nomination for the Nuclear Reactor Building/More Hall Annex as a reason for filing its lawsuit. The revised landmark nomination that was submitted on February 12, 2016 lists Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation as co-nominators. Download the nomination packet to see why we think it should be a City of Seattle Landmark.

The UW’s lawsuit names the City of Seattle and Docomomo WEWA as defendants. Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation have intervened in the lawsuit as defendants. A King County Superior Court hearing has been set for Friday, April 1 (no joke). The hearing is open to the public (for observation only; no public testimony) and will take place at 10:00 am in Judge Suzanne Parisien's courtroom (W-764) in the King County Courthouse (516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104). Counsel for all three parties will present oral arguments. The hearing should last no more than one hour.

This case, as presented to King County Superior Court, does not involve a trial. The UW filed a motion for summary judgement (or judgement as a matter of law) and the City of Seattle filed a cross motion for summary judgement. We are in support of this approach. The judge will make a decision based on the briefs filed by each party and on oral arguments that will be presented on April 1. Three rounds of briefs were filed by each party during the month of March that presented evidence and arguments.

The UW argues that as a state institution of higher learning, it is not subject to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (“LPO”); and that as a threshold matter, the University is not an “owner” as defined by the LPO. It also maintains that the LPO effectively takes away the Board of Regents’ “full control of the University and its property.” The University believes that designation of the Nuclear Reactor Building as a Seattle Landmark would preclude it from building its proposed Computer Science and Engineering II building. The University relies on 150 years of statutes and ordinances to establish the Board of Regents’ “pre-emptory authority” to govern University property.

Let’s be clear here. The University of Washington is a public university located in a dense urban community. It does not operate as an island unto itself, isolated from local regulations. To assert that it is not an owner according to the LPO is absurd. Following local regulations, such at the LPO, does not usurp the Board of Regents’ authority over development of University property. According to the City’s cross motion for summary judgement (which was supported by us), “The Legislature accorded the regents of state universities control over their respective properties ‘except as provided by law.’ That other law includes the Growth Management Act.” The University argues that the LPO is a pre-GMA development regulation and does not apply. However, the City of Seattle re-adopted the LPO after the GMA went into effect, so it is a local development regulation that must be followed. The University has yet to exhaust administrative remedies available (landmark nomination/designation process; controls and incentives negotiation; hearing examiner appeal; City Council process).

We don’t know how the judge will rule. Of course, we hope she will rule in our favor and the City's. This blog will be updated when we find out.

As we have consistently maintained, the University has generally been a good steward of its historic resources. We’d like to see it recognize its post-WWII buildings as significant as well. And we firmly believe there are viable alternatives to demolition. Our landmark nomination was filed to seek protection for the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor building. There are potential adaptive re-use opportunities for the building despite the UW’s assertions that there are none. The landmark nomination/designation and Certificate of Approval processes offer external review of an important historic structure and opportunity for public input. The University's existing historic preservation review process is an internal process. We hope the nomination will go before the Landmarks Preservation Board for review in Spring 2016. We will need your help in advocating for the Nuclear Reactor Building during the landmark process. There will be opportunities to send letters/emails to the Landmarks Preservation Board, testify in support of the nomination at the public meetings, and help get the word out to others.

save the reactor logo.jpg

University of Washington Files Lawsuit over Nuclear Reactor Building

University of Washington Files Lawsuit over Nuclear Reactor Building

In December 2015, Docomomo WEWA filed a Seattle Landmark nomination application for the Nuclear Reactor Building (aka More Hall Annex), and shortly thereafter the university filed a lawsuit against Docomomo WEWA and the City of Seattle in King County Superior Court. With approval from the Council of Historic Seattle and the Board of Directors of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, both those organizations officially signed on as co-nominators with Docomomo WEWA when the final, revised landmark nomination was submitted just last week. Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation will also be added as intervenors in the lawsuit soon. 

There is a lot at stake with the UW’s lawsuit. The University is challenging the City’s land use authority over its state property, claiming that, as a state institution of higher learning, it is not subject to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance ("LPO"). While the LPO gives the Landmarks Preservation Board the authority to review and approve development on designated landmarks in Seattle, there are no state or national laws protecting historic structures from demolition. In this case, it is ironic that the Nuclear Reactor Building was added to the Washington State Heritage Register in 2008 by way of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and yet now the state’s largest institution of higher education wants to tear it down. A ruling in this case would likely establish precedent for historic buildings at the UW Seattle campus, and perhaps beyond to other UW-owned properties. 

This is new territory for all three organizations involved with the landmark nomination. We are non-profit groups promoting the preservation of significant historic properties in Seattle and across the state; occasionally we seek landmark protection for endangered buildings. This is challenging but important work, especially in the case of mid-century modern buildings that may not have had time to gain historic appreciation by the general public. Attitudes toward Brutalism can be quite brutal indeed. 

We are determined to protect the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building and other historic structures on state campuses that might be affected by the outcome of this case. Last month we hired the Seattle law firm, Bricklin & Newman, to defend our interests, because the stakes are bigger than this one building. A hearing date in King County Superior Court is set for April 1st. No joke.

The unfortunate thing about this new Computer Science and Engineering Building ("CSE II") project is that UW doesn’t have to destroy this corner of its historic campus fabric to find a suitable building site. Two sites were studied in its Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS): the Nuclear Reactor Building site (“16C”) across the street from the Computer Science Department’s Paul Allen Center and a site across from the HUB (“14C”) approximately one block north. The administration determined the latter site’s distance would "diminish the collaboration” between faculty and students at the Allen Center. Failure to approve the Nuclear Reactor site would bring “serious harm” to the department, they said. It is sad commentary, that computer science faculty and students are harmed by walking one block between buildings, while the university considers its historic architecture to be dispensable.

No one disputes the need for a new computer science building, and it should be recognized that a short walk in the open air to site (14C) by the HUB would generally be good for people. Along the way they might see a fantastic concrete and glass pavilion designed by important Northwest artists and architects to showcase the technology that shaped our world half a century ago. Despite assertions from the UW Administration that there's no useful life left in the Nuclear Reactor Building, we have heard from reliable sources from within the university that there are desired options for adaptive reuse. In addition, the building is not unsafe to occupy. It has been decommissioned.  

If site 16C must be the site for the new CSE II building, we maintain that it's possible to design a new building that is also more sensitive to the preservation of the Nuclear Reactor Building. The two design scenarios offered in the Supplemental EIS were not creative attempts to provide meaningful preservation opportunities. The "elephant in the room" for site 16C is the 100 ft diameter underground oil tank located just north of the Nuclear Reactor Building. Again, preservation takes a back seat. The preservation of a massive container for fossil fuel seems to be more important than the preservation and adaptive reuse of a historic structure.      

We will continue to fight for the preservation of the Nuclear Reactor Building and we need your help. Join us in advocating for the building during the City of Seattle’s landmark process; we will keep you informed through our Get Involved page and social media. There will be opportunities to send letters or emails to the Landmarks Preservation Board, testify in support of the nomination at the public meetings, and help get the word out to others. Support the preservation of the Nuclear Reactor Building so it will continue to contribute to the architectural legacy of Seattle and all of Washington State.

Nuclear Reactor Building, looking east. Photo by Abby Inpanbutr.

Nuclear Reactor Building, looking east. Photo by Abby Inpanbutr.

UW wants to nuke city’s landmarking powers along with reactor building

UW wants to nuke city’s landmarking powers along with reactor building

By Knute Berger

The University of Washington board of regents has green-lighted a project that will result in the demolition of a nationally recognized historic structure on its Seattle campus.

At a Board of Regents meeting Thursday, the board approved the recommendation of the university administration to build a second Computer Science and Engineering center, a $104.6 million-project that will connect with the current Paul G. Allen Center on the UW campus. The project meets the goals of the UW in expanding training for undergraduates and graduate students in computer science at a time when the school is also committed to turning the University District into a high-tech hub. The new building, if it goes ahead, would be open to students in 2019.

Read the full story on Crosscut . . . 

Will The Silicon Age Replace The Atomic Age On UW's Campus?

Will The Silicon Age Replace The Atomic Age On UW's Campus?

By Jeannie Yandel & Matt Martin

Jeannie Yandel speaks with Chris Moore from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation about the recent decision by the University of Washington's Board of Regents to replace More Hall Annex, a historic nuclear reactor on campus, with a new computer science building.

Moore is involved with an effort to add More Hall to Seattle's list of historic places, which could save it from demolition. The University of Washington has sued the city to stop that effort. A ruling is expected April 1.

Hear the interview at KUOW.org . . .

UW regents vote to demolish old reactor building listed as historic

UW regents vote to demolish old reactor building listed as historic

By Katherine Long

The nuclear age is losing to the computer age.

More Hall Annex — a small concrete building on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus that once housed a nuclear reactor — happens to be sitting on the best location for the proposed new computer-science building, staffers say.

On Thursday, the UW Board of Regents approved a site plan that sacrifices the reactor building to make way for a second computer-science hall.

That’s bad new to those who sought to save More Hall Annex, which is considered a good example of the modern-era architectural style known as Brutalism, and is listed on the Washington Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Many of those who objected to the plans urged the UW to preserve the little building, and instead build on a site next to the UW Club.

Read the full article at The Seattle Times . . . 

More Hall Annex, on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, housed a nuclear reactor from 1961 until the reactor was decommissioned in 2007. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

More Hall Annex, on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, housed a nuclear reactor from 1961 until the reactor was decommissioned in 2007. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

Administration's Recommendations to the Board of Regents

Administration's Recommendations to the Board of Regents

On Thursday, February 11, 2016, the University of Washington (UW) Board of Regents will decide what course to officially pursue regarding the construction of the Computer Science and Engineering Building II (CSE II). Based on the recently released Final Supplemental Enivronmental Impact Statement and in preparation for the upcoming Board of Regents Meeting, the administration has published their recommendations which can be found here.

While the recommendations come as no surprise, they certainly are disappointing. Comments regarding the Nuclear Reactor Building (More Hall Annex) are as follows:

The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) analyzed five alternative designs/locations on two sites, plus the no action alternative. The preferred alternative on Site 16C is the only alternative that meets the programmatic needs of the CSE Department. However, the preferred alternative produces the most significant adverse impact on historic resources because it requires removal of More Hall Annex, which is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and is nominated for designation as a City of Seattle Landmark. The Administration received and reviewed many comments to the Draft SEIS that expressed the position that the Annex, because of its historic value, should be retained on site and the CSE II building constructed on Site 14C, next to the UW Club.
— Page 3
Incorporating the More Hall Annex into the new building would damage the building’s design, compromising both our program and our ability to fundraise for the new building . . . What would we tell potential donors, particularly the potential naming-rights donors whom we will ask to donate tens of millions of dollars? Will they want their name on a building that will satisfy no one’s goals, neither within the CSE program itself nor within the historic preservation community that values the Annex as it is? Even if re-purposing were feasible from a design point of view (which it is not), and even if we could raise the private funds to execute a badly compromised design (which we believe we cannot), would students, faculty, and staff be comfortable working in a facility that once housed a nuclear reactor and experienced a radiation-related accident? Would the UW be comfortable asking them to do so?
— Page 9-10

Save the Reactor: To clarify, the preservation community does value the building as it is, but does not prefer that the building remain vacant and unused. Buildings convey their significance most effectively when they are an active and useful part of a community and when they are able to contribute a sense of history to the present narrative.

Two alternatives studied in the EIS would require the new CSE II building to wrap around and preserve the More Hall Annex for use by the CSE program. Unfortunately, such construction would not only compromise the historic integrity of the Annex, it would make CSE II less useful and attractive, and would require us to make use of the cold, unattractive, and environmentally questionable space within the Annex. Our building must be attractive for people to work in for long hours . . . 
— Page 10

Save the Reactor: The emphasis on analyzing the building based on its the "attractiveness" (or alleged lack thereof) is an insufficient critique as it is completely subjective. The historic and architectural significance of the building are the essential factors, not the present interpretation of taste.

Failure to approve the preferred alternative site at this time will seriously harm CSE, putting a halt to the department’s remarkable trajectory. It will also harm all of UW’s students by reducing our capacity to educate them in the latest technology that is required for everyone in the modern world.
— Page 10
Based on the investigations that have been conducted, the Administration concludes that the educational needs of the University and the CSE Department outweigh the value of preserving the Annex, a building for which the University has no reasonable use.
— Page 11

Final SEIS Released

Final SEIS Released

On January 20, 2016, the University of Washington (UW) released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the planned Computer Science and Engineering Building II (CSE II). As expected, the “preferred alternative” stated by the UW did not change; the UW would prefer to tear down the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building (More Hall Annex) to make way for CSE II.

The proposed actions and alternatives are the same as presented in the Draft EIS and are as follows:

Alternative 1 – Preferred Alternative: Development of CSE II Project on Site 16C - This alternative would include the removal of the existing Nuclear Reactor Building (More Hall Annex), which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Alternative 2 – Development of the CSE II Project on Site 16C and Retention of the More Hall Annex - Two design approaches are presented in this alternative in order to retain “all or a portion of More Hall Annex,” that do not sufficiently respect the historic character of the Nuclear Reactor Building or meet the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation.

Alternative 3 – Development of the CSE II Project on Site 14C - This scenario involves relocating some existing uses and associated staff currently using Site 14C requiring the development or acquisition of new office space. Two design approaches are also presented in this scenario.

Alternative 4 – No Action Alternative

The Final SEIS addresses 41 public comment letters that were submitted concerning the Draft SEIS, and we know of at least one which the UW neglected to include. Of the 42 total letters submitted, 38 of them addressed the Nuclear Reactor Building, three letters addressed transit, and one addressed historic views (and noted the historic character of the Nuclear Reactor Building). Of the 38 letters that addressed the Nuclear Reactor Building, 37 of them supported its preservation.

The general response of the UW seemed to be that comments in support of the Nuclear Reactor Building were “noted” and that “full incorporation of More Hall Annex into the CSE II Building would not feasibly meet the project objectives.”

Thank you to all who submitted letters, and if you would like to see the UW’s specific responses, you can download a copy of the Final SEIS here. (Comment letters and responses are included in Chapter 4 of the document, which begins on page 110.)

THIS IS A NUCLEAR REACTOR.

THIS IS A NUCLEAR REACTOR.

We were recently contacted by a UW student who discovered the Nuclear Reactor Building on campus and recorded a video blog about it. Exciting (and infectious) enthusiasm!

Info about the Nuclear Reactor Building starts at about 1:00:

Former Nuclear Reactor Building might not get saved

Former Nuclear Reactor Building might not get saved

By Madelyn Reese

More Hall Annex, previously known as the Nuclear Reactor Building, is under threat of demolition once again.

The building on the UW campus appeared in a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) released last October, which deals directly with the proposed Computer Science and Engineering Project, one that would most likely lead to the construction of 134,000 square feet of new academic and research space on the southeastern part of campus.

Read the full article at The Daily . . . 

Landmark Nomination Submitted; UW Files Lawsuit

Landmark Nomination Submitted; UW Files Lawsuit

On December 2, 2015, Docomomo WEWA submitted a Seattle Landmark Nomination application to the Seattle Historic Preservation Program. There is no question that the Nuclear Reactor Building meets the designation standards of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. Docomomo WEWA notified the University of Washington that it was submitting the nomination.

On December 18, 2015, the University of Washington filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle AND Docomomo WEWA, claiming that as a State Institution of Higher Learning it is not subject to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. The Ordinance allows anyone to submit a nomination. No laws have been broken by Docomomo WEWA, an all-volunteer nonprofit following its mission to advocate for the preservation of modern architecture. 

Save the Reactor will have more information in the new year. For now, we just wanted to share this latest development with our followers and supporters.

DOCOMOMO US - Update: Save the Reactor

DOCOMOMO US - Update: Save the Reactor

By Docomomo US/WEWA

Since we last wrote in October about Docomomo US/WEWA's advocacy efforts to save the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building at the University of Washington in Seattle, a lot has happened.

We launched our "Save the Reactor" advocacy campaign, collaborating with Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and created a great logo that appears on the website, buttons, and stickers.  To learn more about our collective efforts to save this important structure from the atomic era visit our NEW WEBSITE. 

See the full Update: Save the Reactor on the DOCOMOMO US website . . . 

The link is also available through the DOCOMOMO US December brief.)

Front page of The Seattle Times

Front page of The Seattle Times

The Nuclear Reactor Building is featured on the front page of The Seattle Times this morning. While the article has a relatively negative tone throughout (if you couldn't tell by the title), no publicity is bad publicity. Eugenia Woo of Historic Seattle is quoted in support of the building, and there is a poll asking whether the building should be saved or demolished. Visit the link below to check out the article and cast your vote in support!

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/uws-nuke-reactor-building-cold-ugly-and-worth-saving/

Front page of  The Seattle Times  on December 14 featuring the Nuclear Reactor Building.

Front page of The Seattle Times on December 14 featuring the Nuclear Reactor Building.

UW’s nuke-reactor building: cold, ugly — but worth saving?

UW’s nuke-reactor building: cold, ugly — but worth saving?

The University of Washington had a functional Nuclear Reactor Building from the early 1960s into the 1980s. It faces possible demolition, but might be saved as a historical site because of the efforts of a former architecture student.

By Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times staff reporter

Back in 2008, when she was an architecture graduate student at the University of Washington, Abby Inpanbutr made this her passion: saving what some consider a truly, truly ugly structure.

She may well accomplish her mission of preserving the university’s now-abandoned Nuclear Reactor Building, a small, concrete building with angular slabs. It could be demolished as the campus expands and there are plans for a new Computer Science and Engineering building.

How ugly do some consider the reactor building?

This is a 70-by-76-foot concrete edifice that local architecture critic Larry Cheek described in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer essay: “To some of us, it’s the bastard love child of Brutalism and Burger King.”

To read the full article, visit The Seattle Times . . . 

 

Time Bomb: Clock May Be Ticking for UW’s Historic Nuclear Reactor Building

Time Bomb: Clock May Be Ticking for UW’s Historic Nuclear Reactor Building

By Ellis E. Conklin

Back in 1961, when the Cold War was at full throttle and the Hanford Site was home to nine live nuclear reactors spread along the Columbia River, a concrete box with unusually large windows was erected on the UW campus.

It was called the Nuclear Reactor Building, and it was a quintessential example of Brutalist architecture that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. Often employed in shopping centers and high-rise government housing projects, Brutalist design conveyed strength and functionality.

Deep inside UW’s fortress-like structure, a small, working nuclear reactor was entombed and used to train budding atomic engineers. A silent 1960s video of the building shows young, short-haired students working at various control panels in white laboratory coats.

Read the full article at Seattle Weekly . . .

Comments on the Draft SEIS from savethereactor.org

Comments on the Draft SEIS from savethereactor.org

A HUGE thank you to all who sent comments on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Computer Science and Engineering Building II (CSE II) in support of preserving the Nuclear Reactor Building. We received copies and notifications of several letters and know there were many more that were sent directly to UW. Take a look at the letters sent in by Historic Seattle, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and Docomomo WEWA, the three organizations that have collaborated to create this website.

1963 film of the Nuclear Reactor Building

1963 film of the Nuclear Reactor Building

From the UW archives, check out this film of the Nuclear Reactor Building from 1963, two years after the building was completed:

For more information on this clip, see the article published in UW Today back in 2012: Lost and Found Films: The UW Nuclear Reactor, 1963

This film was also featured in the video the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation created about the Nuclear Reactor Building for the 2015 Most Endangered List which you can find here.

Should the UW's Brutalist Nuclear Reactor Building be Saved?

Embracing the Nuke building’s iconic status links the roots of our tech past to the future
By: Knute Berger

Even when something is “saved,” it’s never saved in Seattle, at least not during boom times.   

Case in point is More Hall Annex, aka the Nuclear Reactor Building on the University of Washington campus. The 1961 building used to house a small nuclear reactor used in training atomic engineers. It was designed by a trio of superstar Northwest modern architects from the UW—Wendell Lovett,Gene Zema, and Daniel Streissguth, along with artist Spencer Moseley. It’s a concrete box with large windows that allowed the public to witness the modern alchemy that took place within. It’s a kind of Brutalist cabana, and was radical in its notion of making the process of nuclear energy “transparent” for the public.

Read the full article at Seattle Magazine . . .

Draft SEIS Comments Due November 23

Draft SEIS Comments Due November 23

Graphic: Docomomo WEWA / Photo: Abby Inpanbutr

Graphic: Docomomo WEWA / Photo: Abby Inpanbutr

The University of Washington recently released its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed construction of the new Computer Science and Engineering Building II (CSE II), which lays out four alternatives for analysis. The Draft SEIS is a long document (300+ pages). To view the full Draft SEIS, download it here (49.5 MB PDF). We poured through the entire document and provide this summary, evaluation, and call to action for you.

  • The "preferred alternative" would result in the demolition of the significant National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building for the construction of the new CSE II building.
  • A second alternative shows the new construction engulfing the Nuclear Reactor Building—a concept that fails to meet the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.
  • A third alternative offers a different nearby site for the CSE II building, just south of the University of Washington Club, a modernist masterpiece on the campus.   
  • The fourth alternative is to take no action (this is standard in all environmental impact statements).

From our review of the Draft SEIS, we feel that the University has not adequately considered the adverse effects to the Nuclear Reactor Building (aka More Hall Annex). The Draft SEIS considers only two sites for the CSE II project (sites 16C and 14C; 16C is where the Nuclear Reactor Building is located).   

What You Can Do

If you care about this issue, please voice your support for a meaningful preservation alternative for the Nuclear Reactor Building. Tell the University of Washington it can do better, and must do better. Submit written comments to the UW by Monday, November 23, 2015. Address comments to Jan Arntz, SEPA Responsible Official, jarntz@uw.edu.

Following are some points to consider conveying to the UW in addition to your own personal thoughts on why the Nuclear Reactor Building is significant to you and why it should be preserved and adaptively reused:

  • It is clear that the UW's "preferred alternative" leaves no room for preservation and should not be pursued.
  • Encourage the UW to consider more potential site alternatives. Site 16C (the preferred site) includes the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building. We understand other potential sites were removed from further consideration due to characteristics deemed incompatible with the proposed CSE II project – described as "fatal flaws." We believe the presence of a National Register-listed resource should also constitute a "fatal flaw" for the site, as its demolition is inconsistent with general national and state policy related to historic and cultural resources. It is inappropriate to use public dollars in a project that will result in the demolition of a nationally recognized historic resource.
  • The preferred site (16C) also contains a massive underground oil tank (larger than the footprint of the Nuclear Reactor Building) that the UW chooses to retain. The UW's preferred alternative preserves an old fossil fuel source of energy and destroys a National Register-listed building. Alternative Two also preserves the oil tank, leaving considerably less potential buildable area for the new construction of the proposed CSE II building. This second alternative forces the new construction to be wedged onto the site, smothering the Nuclear Reactor Building. The University should fully explore other scenarios that would actually comply with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.  
  • The Draft SEIS has not adequately analyzed the environmental impacts of retaining an oil tank in place while it proposes to construct an expensive new building in very close proximity to the oil tank. This places the University in a vulnerable and risky environmental position in the future.
  • Alternative Three on site 14C just south of the University of Washington Club should be explored further and considered as a viable alternative. The new CSE II building could be built on this site without demolishing any historic structures. Care would need to be taken in the design and siting of the CSE II building given the proximity to the University of Washington Club. This site is a pleasant and short walk to the existing Paul Allen Center and should not be dismissed because it does not have the same proximity as site 16C, across Stevens Way from the Paul Allen Center.   
  • Development and construction activities are guided in part by the university’s Campus Master Plan. While the existing Master Plan controls certain things such as height limits, there exists an opportunity to site, orient and locate a new building with different design factors than those currently allowed. As UW is planning to update its existing Campus Plan (this process is currently underway), consideration should be given to adjusting these factors to allow for a more vertical design for the new building, thus requiring a smaller footprint and potentially avoiding or reducing adverse impacts to the Nuclear Reactor Building.

As a leading public university in the United States, with an outstanding architecture department, UW has access to an exceptional community of design and preservation professionals, faculty/staff, students, alumni, etc. who care about what happens to the university campus. With all these resources available, the University needs to try harder and work with the larger community to come up with a truly creative design solution that both preserves and honors the Nuclear Reactor Building in a respectful manner and allows for the construction of the new CSE II building.

Public hearing for the Draft SEIS

Public hearing for the Draft SEIS

On Monday, October 26, 2015 University of Washington (UW) officials held a public hearing to receive feedback about the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the new Computer Science & Engineering Building II. The "preferred alternative" presented by the Draft SEIS involves the demolition of the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building (now More Hall Annex). Representatives from Historic Seattle, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and Docomomo WEWA attended and commented in support of the preservation of the Nuclear Reactor Building, asked UW to reconsider the preferred alternative of demolition, and asked that the other alternatives that the Draft SEIS presented be more fully developed and examined.

If you weren't able to attend the hearing, you can still support preservation efforts! Submit your written comments on the Draft SEIS to UW by Monday, November 23, 2015. Send your support for the Nuclear Reactor Building to:

Jan Arntz
SEPA Responsible Official
Environmental/Land Use Compliance Officer
Capital Projects Office
Box 352205
Seattle, WA 98195
jarntz@uw.edu

To see/read the full Draft EIS that UW released for Computer Science & Engineering Building II, download it here (49.5 MB PDF).

Chris Moore, the Executive Director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, makes public comments at the DEIS hearing at Kane Hall on the UW Seattle campus.

Chris Moore, the Executive Director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, makes public comments at the DEIS hearing at Kane Hall on the UW Seattle campus.

Nuclear Reactor Building featured in Preservation Magazine

Nuclear Reactor Building featured in Preservation Magazine

Pages from the Summer 2015 issue of Preservation Magazine

Threatened: MORE HALL ANNEX / NUCLEAR REACTOR BUILDING

Built in 1961 to house a nuclear research reactor for the University of Washington's burgeoning nuclear engi­neering program, the glass-walled More Hall Annex was unique at the time of its construction for transpar­ently putting this radical new technology on display. The reactor itself was permanently shut down in 1988, as interest in the field declined ,and the Seattle build­ ing has sat vacant ever since. In the fall of 2014, the university announced plans to build a 130,000-square­ foot Computer Science and Engineering building and is considering the land currently inhabited by the More Hall Annex, pending the results of an environmental impact statement. As of press time, groups such as Docomomo WEWA, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Seattle,and concerned members of the university community were exploring alterna­ tives to demolition. -Katherine Flynn

For more from the National Trust for Historic Preservation or Preservation Magazine, please visit: savingplaces.org