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November 18, 2010

Historic warehouse gets an academic makeover

  • After years of neglect, UW Tacoma is restoring the Russell T. Joy Building to provide classrooms, school offices and commercial space.
    THA Architecture


    The University of Washington Tacoma has played a leading role in Tacoma’s downtown renaissance. Its restoration of the warehouse district has created a small-campus environment in the heart of a historic, dynamic downtown.

    The warehouse district was built during an economic boom that followed the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad, but it was all but deserted before the UW selected the area for its Tacoma campus site. Thirteen years later, the neighborhood has been transformed by the addition of the campus and vibrant retail.

    Now UW Tacoma is restoring the Russell T. Joy Building, an important historic warehouse on the northern end of campus. When the building opens next spring, it will signify the completion of the university’s face along Pacific Avenue and provide much-needed classrooms, offices and a permanent home for the university’s largest academic unit, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

    The building “demonstrates a rigorous expression of its warehouse past and strong response to site,” said Kacey Jurgens, principal in charge for THA Architecture, the project architect.

    “With this renovation, the Joy Building will serve the university and larger community for many years to come.”

    Restoration begins

    Images courtesy of THA Architecture [enlarge]
    The west-facing side of UW Tacoma's Joy Building will border a major pedestrian thoroughfare that runs along Commerce Street.

    The 44,000-square-foot building was designed by Pickles & Sutton and built in 1892 for $30,000. The triangular-shaped flatiron structure had eight storefronts on Pacific Avenue with loading docks in the back to give easy access to inventory and material from the railroad spur.

    In its first decade, four businesses called the Joy Building home, but over the last 100 years this historic building has been subjected to fires, neglect and disuse, resulting in a rundown and empty structure by the latter half of the 20th century.

    Work on the Joy Building began in 2009 with the deconstruction of interior materials and removal of debris and grime. The design team was able to salvage many of the materials and preserve much of the rich textures and industrial details found in the building.

    Recovered timbers will become countertops, teaching wall backdrops and finished wood screens located in the public areas of the building. Benches created from large recovered wood beams will clearly show hand tooling artistry and exhibit the rich history of the building.

    Salvaged bricks will be relocated to parts of the building that require filling, and large metal fire doors will be preserved as monumental elements. Parts from the original elevator system have been converted into a dynamic sculpture that will hang from a raised-roof “penthouse” in the center of the building.

    Room for growth

    Work to refurbish the Joy Building, shown center, began in 2009. Storefront spaces on Pacific Avenue will house restaurants and retail.

    The Joy Building will serve as a welcoming beacon and the north entrance to a major pedestrian thoroughfare running along Commerce Street, a connective open space through the campus.

    The addition of 16 classrooms, seminar rooms and two large lecture halls address the projected growth needs of the university, as well as provide a new office suite for the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences department. The layout of the building situates classrooms on the east side of the building facing Pacific Avenue, with views out to the active streetscape and Tacoma’s historic railroad station.

    Informal gathering and studying spaces are placed on the west side of the building, facing the pedestrian throughway and a planned plaza. Along Pacific Avenue, restaurant and retail space will transform the historic warehouse into a vibrant downtown storefront and enforce the strong ties the university has created with the Tacoma community.

    The design of the restored Joy Building incorporates a great number of sustainable strategies. The project is set to achieve LEED gold certification.

    In addition to reusing an existing building and recycling most of the interior materials, the building employs energy-efficient and operable windows, high-efficiency condensing boilers, efficient lighting design, low-flow hot water fixtures, variable refrigerant flow fan coils and LED exit signs.

    In order to create light-filled and naturally ventilated interior spaces, the architects designed a raised-roof “penthouse” with high, mechanically operable windows that open and close when the temperature reaches a certain point. Glumac, the mechanical and electrical engineer, estimates that the energy-efficient measures will result in a $25,000 reduction in operating costs each year for the university. In addition, all the rainwater will be collected off the roof and moved to stormwater planters for filtering to reduce runoff.

    Library expansion

    The Joy Building is a critical component in UW Tacoma’s efforts to accommodate the university’s increased enrollment and meet the demand for higher education in the central Puget Sound region.

    It is also one piece of a larger phase of current development on the UW Tacoma campus. The university will begin construction this winter on the Tioga Library Building, a 40,000-square-foot structure that will house an expansion of the library as well as faculty offices and retail space. The building, also to be designed by THA Architecture and built by Korsmo Construction, will open in the spring of 2012.

    Sarah Bell, an associate at THA Architecture, is the marketing director and has been with the firm for 10 years.

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