SEATTLE – The University of Washington and Seattle officials are heading to court for control over historic buildings on the university’s campus.
A Superior Court judge on Friday will hear arguments in the university’s lawsuit about the city’s Landmark Preservation Ordinance, which has been invoked by preservationists as UW looks to tear down a historic building that used to house a nuclear reactor, the Seattle Times reported.
The university argues that its Board of Regents is best suited to decide if a building has historic value, but preservationists say the city should have a role in deciding what buildings have such value.
The debate was started when regents voted to tear down a 55-year-old Brutalist-style building that once housed a small nuclear reactor. The More Hall Annex is listed on the Washington Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The reactor was built in 1961 and used for three decades for teaching and research.
The historic designation doesn’t afford the building any protection.
Eugenia Woo, the director of preservation services for Historic Seattle, said the dispute isn’t just about More Hall Annex, but about how much authority the university is granted over public land. “The UW is a public university in a community and cannot act as if it’s an island unto itself,” Woo said.
Sally Clark, director of regional and community relations for the UW and a former Seattle City Council member, said the university decided to file a lawsuit after prior meetings ended without much productive arguments.
“It would be going too far to say it’s a friendly lawsuit – but in the meetings I’ve been a part of, everybody got tired of ‘You’re wrong!’ ‘No, you’re wrong!“’ she said. “Let’s go ahead and have a judge decide.”
The university argues the Legislature granted regents the power over where buildings are constructed on campus.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.