Court 17 student housing looks to expand

Photo by Alexa Christie | A photo of UW Tacoma’s Court 17 which houses students who live on campus.

Student housing on the UW Tacoma campus is looking to survey students and focus groups on the possibility of expansion.

When it comes to on-campus housing, UW Tacoma has Court 17; a building of apartments originally owned by the City of Tacoma before UW acquired the building and began to convert the apartments into housing. First open to house international students, Court 17 eventually became the on-campus housing option for students. 

Joe Lawless, Chief Strategy Officer on the Tacoma Campus and leader of the Center for Leadership & Social Responsibility, was available to provide more information on possible expansion to Court 17 housing, including more space, another building and the concept of a Visitor’s Center. 

Working with the UW Tacoma Chancellor and Vice Chancellor, real estate professionals, those from Housing and Residence Life and even current residential advisors of Court 17, Lawless is currently focused on raising awareness for the possibility of expansion. 

Lawless revealed that a demand survey done in 2017 revealed that there was a demand to build over 600 beds. While the University of Washington President in UW Seattle gave approval to move forward in Jan. 2020, survey and construction plans were put on halt as the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

With two years having passed since the first demand study, Lawless reveals that they are redoing the demand study along with student focus groups that will be taking place during the week of April 11. The survey that Lawless is compiling will be open through April 15 and will be sent out en masse to students through an email provided by Chancellor Lang.

Focus groups will number 2-3 with roughly 6-10 students per group, as explained in an email sent out by Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Life Bernard Anderson. The focus groups will be open to all students, including those who do not currently live in Court 17, and can be joined or inquired about further by emailing uwtsl@uw.edu. 

“Court 17 was designed as apartments,” Lawless explains when asked about the original building, “[N]ot necessarily as traditional student housing. It’s fine for older students and grad students, but we need more. … What we’re studying is what type of housing students want and what makes sense, because ultimately, once we get this study done, we’re going to be looking for P3 partnerships.” 

P3 partnerships, which are Public Private Partnerships, are used when the state will not provide funding. In order to proceed with Court 17 adjustments and partnerships, a demand study and collection of student focus groups are needed in order to give a rough estimate and prediction of what can be expected. 

The survey and focus groups will revolve around questioning students what models of room, pricing and food services they would prefer out of what will be available. While Court 17 will house students, the goal is for the expansion to serve the whole campus. 

“We’re mostly a commuter campus,” Lawless said while discussing plans to open Court 17 areas to all students, “[A]nd you want to go use the cafeteria as well, so it serves our commuter students and our faculty, and our staff. Our hope is to build some sort of commons. We’ve got over 5,000 students on our campus, so the other 4,500 we want to be able to serve commuter students as well to hang out there and do some studying there and grab a sandwich and that sort of thing.”

While Lawless has confirmed there are plans for a website regarding information on the project – future link available through the Ledger social media when live – updated information on the progress of Court 17 and any future housing expansion or on-campus living information can be found through Housing & Residence Life at www.tacoma.uw.edu/housing.

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