A new academic building is on the slate of planned construction projects for Washington State University Tri-Cities.
Chancellor H. Keith Moo-Young told the WSU Board of Regents during its Friday meeting in Richland that planning is going well for the new academic building on the Richland campus.
The building joins a student housing proposed for the north end of the campus and construction is to begin this summer on a student union near the Consolidated Information Center.
Few details were offered about the size or specific use of the academic building but Moo-Young’s presentation noted it would likely serve STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — programs.
Officials on the Richland campus confirmed that the state has allocated up to $400,000 for the pre-design phase, though university records show construction wouldn’t start until at least 2019.
Still, several Tri-City community leaders praised the progress toward expanding WSU Tri-Cities and what it could mean for the Richland campus and the Tri-Cities as a whole.
“We’d love to see (the campus) get much, much bigger,” Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council, told the board.
We’d love to see (the campus) get much, much bigger.
Carl Adrian, Tri-City Development Council
“Growth will be constrained without expanding teaching and research capacity and consolidating laboratory and classroom facilities to meet strategic needs,” said a brief report on the project from WSU’s development program.
The WSU Wine Science Center, the newest building on the Richland campus, opened last summer and housies the viticulture and enology program.
The Bioproducts, Sciences & Engineering Laboratory, or BSEL, operated in conjunction with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, opened in 2008 and has some classrooms and science labs.
But the need for space has forced more to be moved off campus. Nursing students were moved to a new leased space in central Richland to improve collaboration with the health care industry but also to free up room on campus for other programs.
WSU Tri-Cities set a record enrollment of more than 1,600 students last fall and also has more students on campus this spring than in previous years.
That’s led to overcrowding that requires the university to lease two teaching labs, a research lab, 26 offices, a conference room and a 3,000-square-foot high bay in the Port of Benton’s research district to accommodate student and faculty needs.
“The new academic building will allow for reduction of this less effective leased space, in addition to accommodating needed growth to achieve strategic goals,” the report said.
The new academic building will allow for reduction of this less effective leased space, in addition to accommodating needed growth to achieve strategic goals.
WSU’s development program report
A map from a draft master site plan for the Richland campus developed in 2015 has an academic building along with the student union building on its list of planned projects.
That academic building would be placed next to the parking lot on the south end of campus and immediately east of the BSEL building.
On Friday, the regents unanimously approved the final design for the largely student-funded $5.73 million student union.
A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for May and construction will start this summer.
State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, told the regents at the meeting that the academic building is definitely needed on the campus and that she was glad to recently hear the project has moved up to No. 3 on WSU’s list of capital priorities.
Adrian added that he and others in the Tri-Cities are pleased with the direction Moo-Young has taken the campus in encouraging more students to pursue STEM careers. But he said those efforts must continue and additional space on campus can aid that.
“Many of our employers need more recruits in that discipline,” he said.