HFS revises master plan

McMahon could be repurposed.

The 2012 reconstruction of Terry and Lander Halls was just the first step in the UW’s Housing Master Plan (HMP), a step-by-step project with a total budget of almost $850 million, projected to be completed in 2020.

Housing & Food Services (HFS) is now launching phase one of the north campus dorm demolition and rebuilding. Phase one will cost $216 million, one-quarter of the total HMP budget.

Via The Daily

Additionally, McMahon Hall’s future has yet to be determined, since HFS plans to decommission it as a residence hall after McCarty and Haggett Halls are demolished. Once this happens, McMahon will cease to be HFS property, and instead become property of the UW. However, at this point, the university has made no concrete plans.

HFS has been working on the HMP since 2007. The first phase of north campus renovations involve demolishing McCarty Hall and constructing three new buildings adjacent Denny Field. This portion of the project is expected to take three years.

“One of the immediate benefits it gave us cost-wise was to be able to build up on a flat surface as opposed to so much or all on the slope surface,” said Rob Lubin, associate director for Facilities and Capital Planning.

This placement removes existing tennis courts. To mitigate this recreational removal, HFS is also planning on investing money into Denny Field, transforming it into a “12-month usable field.” No longer a baseball field, it would be an open grass field used for sports, recreation, and large events.

However, many students are less concerned about appearances and more concerned about affordability.

“Finances are more important to me because aesthetics are basically temporary and not a necessity to me,” said Sarah Nee, a UW student. “I would be concerned about the ability of my sister to pay for housing when she enters the university if all that’s left at that point is very nice, expensive dorms.”

Regardless of how the buildings are constructed, the rent will be higher than the current north campus dorms. The current dorms have been around long enough — since the 1950s and ’60s — to the point where previous students have paid off the buildings’ initial costs and mortgages, making the rent low for current students.

“Affordability has been a concern of ours from the get-go,” said HFS Director Pamela Schreiber.

While the HMP compares calculations to maintain cost-effectiveness, it also maintains the idea that the resulting buildings should last.

Administrators said students have been asking if HFS could simply build at a cheaper cost.

“You can’t build these incredibly cheap buildings and expect the same longevity and stewardship for students who are going to be here 30 years from now,” Lubin said. “Because their bills are going to be horrible; they’d be paying for all the leaks and the crumbling concrete and the whatever.”

Action is being taken now because the older dorms had building audits, particularly ones from 1995, 2000, and 2006, suggesting the UW needs to fix these buildings lest major failures occur. The UW’s HFS audits take place every five to eight years, and are a key way to gauge the dorms’ stability for both cost and safety purposes.

As a state agency, the UW doesn’t raise its rates like the private market does; instead, it sets a fixed rate for the entire institution at the beginning of each calendar year. However, HFS will still need to raise its rental rates to meet its expended costs.

Originally, the HMP called for all buildings to be renovated, but when HFS began the Terry and Lander Hall transformations, they discovered it was more expensive, by $100 per square foot, to renovate than to rebuild. This information is being translated into north campus refurbishings, which means HFS will not have to work around the asbestos residing in all the north campus dorms.

In order to develop the best strategy, the UW references a Stanford Benchmark model, independently conducted by Stanford University’s Department of Project Management. The model compares the UW’s cost per square foot of projected rental rates to other Pac-12 universities, accounting for all variables like state taxes and location of construction to normalize the data.

“So what’s so great about this is a lot of times you have to be cautious: Are you comparing apples to oranges?” Schreiber said. “This data, you’re comparing apples to apples.”

Schreiber expressed that HFS wants to engage students and said she often finds herself asking what it’s going to feel like for the students as she sits in HMP meetings.

HFS is holding events where students can ask questions and voice their opinions, according to David Rey, HFS communications manager. Rey hopes these events will take place in more open areas, like the HUB.

Rey said the event they held at the end of January didn’t draw a lot of student attendees.

“We’re just trying to get out and about in places where students are at,” Rey said. “We’re planning on doing a few more of these to engage the students, get feedback from them so that we can include them in future parts of this process.”

Rey hopes the event will be a gateway for students to connect with HFS and generate interest in Lubin’s student focus groups.

Lubin and Schreiber also welcome suggestions from students via email. Schreiber can be reached at pschreib@hfs.washington.edu and Lubin can be reached at rlubin@uw.edu.

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