Jessica Keller photo: While a defined entrance to campus is something SPU administrators would like to include during their next 20-year master plan, that outcome is a goal, not a guarantee.
Jessica Keller photo: While a defined entrance to campus is something SPU administrators would like to include during their next 20-year master plan, that outcome is a goal, not a guarantee.

Seattle Pacific University is in the midst of creating a new, 20-year major institution master plan and invites residents who live in the area to participate in the process.

The MIMP is a formal document that the university is required to submit and receive approval from the city outlining its vision for growth over the next 20 years. Dave Church, SPU’s assistant vice president for facility management, said SPU is working with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections during the two-year process. A citizen advisory committee, comprised of 10 residents of the surrounding neighborhood, will represent the public’s interest as the new master plan is developed.

“It basically is sort of an over-arching zoning code that helps everybody understand the framework for what we can and can’t do,” Church said about the MIMP.

SPU is proposing to increase its square footage by 1.2 million square feet to a total of 2.9 million square feet, primarily to the north and east, between West Nickerson Street and the Ship Canal. Church said SPU is trying to respect what it heard during its last MIMP, which was adopted in 2000, by avoiding growth up the hill into Queen Anne or into single-family neighborhoods.

Church said the concept plan, which the CAC is in the process of reviewing and commenting on, includes a number of aspirations and wants based on what the university needs and doesn’t have and what it anticipates needing in the future.

“This is about trying to get some flexibility to grow and change, as time goes by,” Church said, adding the document is also intended to provide some predictability to neighbors.

One ongoing goal SPU would like to accomplish is establishing a defined entry point to campus, preferably with a welcome center and parking to welcome prospective students and their families and other visitors to campus.

“I would categorize that as an aspiration,” Church said. “I don’t know if we will get there or not.

“We’d kind of like to get to the point where you have a sense of arriving some place,” he added.

Another priority for SPU is to provide more housing on campus. Currently SPU has housing for 50 percent of the students but would like to accommodate more upperclassmen. Doing this would, in part, reduce commute trips, and build a stronger campus.

“We think it really brings value our students to have upperclassmen mixed in with our freshmen and sophomores, and we think being a residential campus is kind of a part of our DNA,” Church said.

Additional classroom space is also a priority. Church said many of SPU’s buildings were built in the 1960s or earlier and were designed for a different type of education. General purpose classrooms with armchairs do not meet educational needs of today’s students, Church said. SPU would like to increase its square footage per student to 26 feet, which would allow for different learning to take place, including break-out space for group learning and discussion.

“In a lot of our older buildings, that [opportunity] doesn’t exist,” he said.

Another focus is creating more recreation space for students. Currently, SPU has a small student union center, but it is in an office building and only has a small food court venue. Church said students frequently request more space to hang out or do activities, and administrators would like to accommodate them.

Another factor that will be considered in the new master plan is allowing for mixed-use opportunities, such as a combination of retail and offices or even retail and housing. As part of the concept plan, SPU envisions relocating existing businesses currently on campus, such as the bank, the SPU printing and mailing facility that the public can use and the book store, further down Nickerson.

In addition, Church said SPU also envisions more retail opportunities in the future that would complement the surrounding community and the students living on campus, although the university does not have any specific businesses or brands in mind.

Church said none of the things included in the SPU concept plan are guaranteed happen in the immediate future; they are things the university would like to do, however.

In conjunction with the MIMP process, SDCI will conduct an environmental review of the master plan. According to a press release from SPU, SDCI is expected to soon issue a State Environmental Policy Act Scoping Notice that would identify one or more elements of the environment to study in an environmental impact statement. The public can participate in the scoping process through written public comment.

Church is hopeful more people will get involved in the process, which was delayed a number of months because of COVID-19. He said he reached out to a number of community groups last year before SPU began the process to update its master plans but has not heard from many community members since. Church said he believes the university entered the process with good relations in Queen Anne and does not want that to change.

“This is a public process, and we want to hear from anyone and everyone,” Church said, adding comments go to the Department of Neighborhoods, which are then relayed to the CAC.

The next citizen advisory committee meeting is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 5 through Webex, seattlewebex.com. Meetings are open to the public and typically take place on the first Tuesday every month, but next month’s was rescheduled to not conflict with the election.

Questions or comments should be submitted 24 hours ahead of time to Maureen Sheehan at the Department of Neighborhoods, maureen.sheehan@seattle.gov.

People can find more information about the major institution master improvement plan, including a link to the SPU concept plan, at http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/programs-and-services/major-institutions-and-schools/major-institution-advisory-committees/seattle-pacific-university.