Battle is on for UW site

EVERETT — Competition for a new University of Washington branch campus in Snohomish County ratcheted up Wednesday night when more than 300 people including community and business leaders tried to persuade a search firm that they have the ideal site.

Four sites — two in Everett and one each in Marysville and Lake Stevens — remain in the running from a list that once included 83 locations in Snoho­mish, Island and Skagit counties.

Among the crowd at the Hansen Conference Center at the Everett events center were dozens of north county residents wearing T-shirts proclaiming “Real Huskies Go North (of Everett).”

A banner from backers of the two Everett sites listed 80 businesses — from as big as Boeing to as small as Zippy’s Java Lounge — supporting those locations.

Dozens of people queued up in two long lines for a chance to speak.

They ranged from strongly advocating a specific site to just being happy to see the campus come to the county.

“It’s going to change the entire area,” said Nomi Kranick, a real estate agent who lives in Everett and works in Marysville, and whose 13-month-old son, James, wore a UW-Everett sticker.

For all the displays of community support, the decision will boil down to how each site measures up to selection criteria, state officials said.

Wednesday was the fourth town hall meeting at which the state and UW officials reported on their progress in choosing a site and developing an academic plan. It was also the first since the list was pared to four.

Consultants are planning two more meetings. One will be Oct. 29 at Cavelero Mid High School, 8220 24th St. SE, Lake Stevens. The other will be in Marysville, a date and location still to be decided.

By Nov. 15, state-hired consultant NBBJ will give the Legislature and the governor a report on the pros and cons of each site and possibly recommend a preferred site.

That criteria includes location, such as proximity to housing and work opportunities related to academic programs, site conditions, access to public transportation and utilities.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson offered another carrot, community fundraising to support the school.

“We clearly recognize our responsibility to the families of the region to assist students success through scholarships, the provision of equipment and technology, access to the arts and nurturing a quality living environment,” he said. “The city of Everett has a long and generous history of contribution and community building.”

Stephanson said he has asked former Mayor Ed Hansen to help lead the city’s community fundraising efforts.

Arlington Schools Superintendent Linda Byrnes urged the evaluation team to consider the amount of land available for future expansion. The north county site has more than 350 acres. Byrnes pointed out that the state recommends 25 acres for building a middle school and that Arlington and Stanwood high schools are more than 50 acres.

“You need to think out about 100 years,” she said.

Byrnes also said she believes a site in the north county would better serve students from Skagit and Island counties as well as growing areas of Stanwood, Arlington and Marysville.

Snohomish Mayor Randy Hamlin advocated the Lake Stevens site as his first choice, but said he’s just glad the UW is coming.

“My hat’s off to the region,” he said. “Whatever site it is, I’m ecstatic and the people of Snohomish are ecstatic.”

Some young people wished they could enroll today.

“I know a lot of people who are going to the UW from high school,” said Austina Lane, a junior at Marysville Arts and Technology High School and supporter of the Marysville site. “It will probably make their life easier. If it was built, I would totally go.”

Others think Everett’s industrial base is a perfect fit.

“My son is 12 years old and he wants to be an aerospace engineer, so having a university right here and Boeing in our back yard, it’s pretty exciting,” said Wendy McClure of Everett. “Being able to go to school right here would be a very powerful experience for him.”

Laura Baird, a UW senior from Marysville, said Everett’s urban setting would be more attractive to students. “The campus itself can be spectacular … but when you are visiting a school you look at where you are going to have coffee after class and where you are going to do your homework.”

In Everett, the UW could be either at the Everett Station or on former Kimberly-Clark land along the Snohomish River. In Marysville, it could be on acreage east of I-5 in the Smokey Point area and in Lake Stevens it could be near the new Cavelero Mid High School.

Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, wore his UW letterman jacket and said he attended the meeting just to listen. He hoped the provincial partisanship doesn’t derail the process.

“If we are fighting over sites, the rest of the Legislature could say, ‘We aren’t doing anything until you settle down and we could get nothing,’ ” he said.

Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or e-mail

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