University of Washington Tacoma marks opening of new Paper & Stationery Building Mortenson Construction adapted the historic warehouse for use as a UWT academic facility supporting science and technology programs. 

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Courtesy rendering_ The Miller_Hull Partnership
rendering courtesy of The Miller Hull Partnership

The University of Washington-Tacoma community gathered Sept. 28 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the official grand opening of the new Tacoma Paper & Stationery (TPS) building, an adaptive reuse of the historic warehouse named for an early tenant dating from the Northern Pacific Railway era.

The 40,000 square-foot facility opened to students for the current UW Tacoma school year, and will house science and technology programs. Originally built in 1904, TPS was the UW Tacoma’s last previously-unrestored historic warehouse on campus to be renovated.

The three people on the right_ From left, UW Regent Herbert Simon, ASUWT President Sophie Nop, and UW Tacoma Chancellor Mark A. Pagano. Photo by Cody Char
At right, UW Regent Herbert Simon, ASUWT President Sophie Nop and UW Tacoma Chancellor Mark A. Pagano took part in the groundbreaking. Photo by Cody Char

“This building is the brick-and-wood manifestation of the indomitable community spirit that has built UW Tacoma,” said UW Tacoma chancellor Mark Pagano in his opening remarks. “From its custom Milgard windows, to its reclaimed timber furniture, to its biomedical research labs, design studios and classrooms, to its beautiful wall art honoring donors who have given more than $48 million to support the university, Tacoma Paper & Stationery shows us the power of a vision.”

Mortenson Construction served as the general contractor for the project, while the renovation was designed by architecture firm Miller Hull Partnership.

“The Tacoma Paper & Stationery building will always have a special place in Tacoma history, and we’re so pleased to have preserved some of its most unique attributes in its new use as an academic facility,” said Mortenson Construction executive John Baker. “We’re proud to have extended the life of a 20th-century building to help equip students with the skills they need to excel in the 21st-century economy.”

The building owes its name to the company that was its tenant from 1911 to 1953. The original structure was built by the Tacoma Biscuit & Candy Company, best known regionally for its crackers and marshmallows. The top floor had a waterproof concrete floor specifically designed so that it could be hosed down, draining food waste directly out of the building. It was thought to be the only candy floor of its kind in the west. The candy company moved out after only a few years.

In 1971, the first floor of the four-story building became home to The Old Spaghetti Factory while the rest of the floors remained vacant. UW Tacoma purchased the site in 1995 as it assembled properties for its new campus. The restaurant would eventually relocate three blocks north of campus.

Today, the Tacoma Paper & Stationery building is a facility supporting innovative, high-demand programs in science and technology that are at the very core of the community’s emerging identity. The first floor will serve as a student commons, an area for informal meetings and gatherings, and an event venue.

The ground floor will also house what is being called a “maker space,” a collaborative work area available for student projects, and for using equipment and technology like 3D printers.

The second floor, at the Jefferson Avenue level, will have multiple studio classrooms and seminar spaces, plus an urban design lab that will support a new master of arts in community planning and a bachelor of arts in urban design, the only such degree on the U.S. west coast.

The third and fourth floors will have biomedical research labs, to support a new bachelor of science program in biomedical sciences, plus collaboration spaces, classrooms and electrical engineering labs, to support a bachelor of science program in electrical engineering.

The building has been brought up to modern seismic standards. Where possible, the existing massive interior wood beams and columns that came from the Northwest’s old-growth forests were reclaimed. The project is aiming for LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Construction on the renovation began in early 2016.

The ability of UW Tacoma to achieve its mission of providing higher education opportunities in the South Puget Sound region is directly reliant on this project, which provides capacity for UW Tacoma to accommodate a projected enrollment of 5,800 full-time students over the next few years.

Mortenson Construction began its longstanding relationship with the UW in the 1980s and has worked on iconic buildings and facilities including UW Tacoma’s University Y Student Center. On the Seattle campus, Mortenson is building the new CSE2 computer science building, and has worked on the Allen Library, Architecture Hall, Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering, Odegaard Undergraduate Library and the Benjamin D. Hall Interdisciplinary Research Building.

The Tacoma Paper & Stationery project team includes:

  • Mortenson Construction: general contractor
  • Miller Hull Partnership: architect
  • PCS Structural Solutions: structural engineer
  • Glumac: electrical and mechanical engineer
  • AHBL: civil engineer
  • Bruce Dees: landscape architect
  • Bola Architecture and Planning: historic preservation

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