UW set to break ground on 69-acre redevelopment to create Seattle innovation hub

The UW this year expects to break ground on a new building called Brightwork whose tenants will include BBI.


New Building A view from the south of the proposed green space expansion within the University of Washington’s planned Portage Bay Crossing development. The project includes the Brightwork building, shown at the park’s northern edge, which the UW hopes will start construction this year. (UW Image)

__Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from an article published January 4, 2024 by GeekWire. To read the complete story, please visit https://www.geekwire.com/2024/univ-of-washington-set-to-break-ground-on-69-acre-redevelopment-to-create-seattle-innovation-hub/ __

The University of Washington this year expects to break ground on a new building that will anchor an ambitious, innovation-focused redevelopment called Portage Bay Crossing. The project will cover 69 acres of the southwest portion of the Seattle campus, revitalizing and unifying an area of buildings that officials called old and underutilized.

UW leaders recently shared the name of the inaugural structure, which they’re calling Brightwork — a nautical term for the varnished wood on boats, as well as an allusion to the quality of research and entrepreneurship that hopefully takes place in the facility.

“The intellectual work that will occur inside these buildings, and inside this space, we hope will solve some of the nation’s and the world’s biggest problems,” said Randy Hodgins, UW vice president for external affairs.

The university’s vision is to transform the area into a walkable urban hub that incorporates buildings for academic research across disciplines; is home to startups and companies; provides housing; and attracts retail shops and restaurants that include diverse owners. The project will have features acknowledging the Coast Salish people and cultures, as well as other Pacific Northwest tribes.

The effort has been more than a decade in the works, and aspires for something different than the largely commercial neighborhood occupied by Amazon and other tech and biotech ventures in the South Lake Union area, just across the lake from the UW.

“We’re a public university. We’re not a private, profit-making company,” Hodgins said. And while there’s nothing wrong with commercial ventures, he added, “we have an obligation to embrace a lot of different kinds of partners.”

The UW is working with Wexford Science + Technology on the project. Baltimore-based Wexford has partnered with academic and research institutions across the U.S. to develop what it calls “knowledge communities.” The UW project is its 17th such effort over two decades. Among the details:

  • Brightwork will be an 11-story structure with 345,000 square feet of leasable space located at Brooklyn Ave. N.E. and N.E. 40th St.

  • The UW is providing Wexford an 80-year lease for the property, after which the building reverts to UW ownership.

  • The UW will rent up to 130,000 square feet in Brightwork for research efforts including the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds, the Institute for Protein Design and the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine.