Update, 1:45 p.m. PT: The Board of Regents officially approved the funding and budget plan this afternoon.
The University of Washington will soon have a brand new computer science and engineering building to help meet growing demand from students.
The university’s board of regents met Thursday morning with its Finance and Asset Management Committee to discuss a finalized budget plan for the 135,000 square-foot building that will double the capacity of the top-rated CSE program, allowing it to award more than 600 degrees annually.
The estimated project cost is $105.5 million, with more than half of the funding coming via donations from companies like Microsoft ($10 million), Amazon ($10 million), and Zillow ($5 million), as well as several other contributors. The state is putting in $17.5 million, with the rest coming from various university funds.
There is also a $25 million bridge loan financing strategy to fund expenditures relating to unfulfilled gifts.
Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates chair at the CSE department, spoke at Thursday’s meeting and said he’s confident that fundraising will soon be completed in full. There is currently more than $90 million committed to the project, with $60.5 million in the bank.
There were no qualms or concerns from the committee on Thursday in regard to the budget plan. The official vote from the full board of regents will come later today and is expected to be approved. We’ll update this story this afternoon with confirmation. Update: The Board of Regents officially approved the funding and budget plan Thursday afternoon.
Lazowska thanked the university for its support, as well as the “astonishingly supportive” companies and individuals outside campus that have helped.
“Being in this community is just heartwarming when people pull together to make this happen,” he said.
UW President Ana Mari Cauce talked about the increasing demand for CSE degrees from students, as well as from the greater community “because of the jobs that are needed.” She also said she isn’t worried about potential changes in the job market because CSE degrees are “very flexible.”
“I’m not a gambling person,” said Cauce, who took office in October 2015. “But this is a sure bet.”
Last year, CSE became the leading “first-choice” major among confirmed incoming UW freshmen, surpassing the longtime leading preferred major, Business Administration. UW says it currently has to turn away two out of every three qualified student applicants in the CSE department.
“This project responds to explosive growth in the role of computer science: demand for the major, demand for courses by students in other majors, demand from employers in the tech industry and in the broadest imaginable range of other fields, change-the-world impact,” Lazowska told GeekWire. “Yes, the project is about a building, but it’s really about opportunity — about the future of our region.”
At this morning’s meeting, Lazowska said the project has the same architect, contractor, construction manager, and fundraising team that helped the UW build its first and only CSE building, the Paul G. Allen Center, back in 2003.
“I think you can have confidence that we will do this time what we did before, which is to bring you a wonderful building on time and under budget that serves the students in this state,” Lazowska told the regents.
If the project is approved this afternoon, construction could start as early as Friday. Completion is expected by December 2018.
The new building will include 16 labs, a lecture hall, two classrooms, three seminar rooms, an event space, communal and study spaces, office and support spaces.
In the decade since the current UW CSE building opened, the demand for computer science graduates has skyrocketed in the Seattle region, thanks to a strong startup ecosystem, Amazon’s rapid growth, and the opening of Seattle-area engineering offices by Google, Facebook, and many other tech companies based outside the region.
Jeremy Jaech, a UW regent and veteran tech entrepreneur in Seattle, called the impact of the CSE department on local businesses “incredible.”
“There is clearly a strong symbiotic relationship here,” he said.