WSU regents OK plans for building near EvCC

Washington State University regents gave an enthusiastic thumbs up Friday to a plan to build a multi-story building across from Everett Community College that will cement the research university’s presence in the city.

The Board of Regents voted unanimously to authorize use of $10 million in state funds to design the 95,000-square foot structure to be built in the parking lot of the EvCC-owned College Plaza shopping center.

The facility, which will have offices and classrooms, would rise near the corner of North Broadway and Tower Street and could be ready by 2017.

The regents also approved using some of the state money to acquire nearby parcels for conversion into parking lots, in order to provide spaces displaced by the building.

“There’s a long way to go, mind you, but this is a very good start,” said WSU Regent Connie Niva of Everett prior to the vote.

Mayor Ray Stephanson echoed the sentiment.

“This is a very positive step. I am very pleased to see the advancement of higher education by Washington State University in our community,” he said.

WSU secured the state funds earlier this year after months of discussion involving leaders of the university, community college and city.

The site is envisioned as the future home for the University Center of North Puget Sound, a consortium of four-year colleges which today offer classes to hundreds of students both online and in classrooms on the community college campus.

Everett Community College manages the center now, but will hand over control to WSU next year. Enrollment is growing and the center is expected to run out of space for students by the end of the decade.

WSU is driving the increase in enrollment. It brought its first undergraduate program to the center in 2012 and is looking to add programs in 2014 and 2015.

Its takeover of the center, coupled with the increase in academic programs, fuels talk that this building will become an anchor for a branch campus.

“That remains to be seen,” Niva said. “In my mind there’s no desire to crowd out the community college. We don’t ever want to be seen diminishing its importance.”

University officials sidestep the issue, but they’ve taken to referring to this project as “WSU North Puget Sound of Everett.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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