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Tuesday, May 14, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW Moves On Law School -- University President Approves Hotly Debated Parking-Area Site

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

University of Washington President Richard McCormick has decided to move forward with building a proposed - and controversial - new law-school building in the parking area south of the Burke Memorial Museum.

His decision, which concurs with the recommendation of two faculty committees, triggers an environmental review of the preferred site and alternative locations, and is one of many steps necessary before the siting becomes final.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda French, have pledged $12 million to help pay for the $52 million building, which is supposed to receive two-thirds of its money from the state.

The project and its proposed location, along 15th Avenue Northeast, close to the intersection with Northeast 45th Street, have generated great concern among critics who worry about the building's effect on open space and trees, traffic congestion and the ability of the Burke Museum to expand.

"There are many issues that haven't been dealt with, primarily the transportation and parking," said architecture Professor Folke Nyberg.

A master plan should have been in place before the decision was made, he added.

In an 11-page memorandum to the university community, McCormick responded to several criticisms of the project.

It can be accomplished "in ways that preserve the much-loved trees and open space and that create new and positive elements of the landscape," the president wrote.

Also, the Burke Museum's current level of visitors can be accommodated, even with some modest growth, McCormick said.

It looks like parking can be handled in several ways, he said. That may include on-site and below-grade parking, shifts in parking assignments, restriping existing lots and, as a last resort, building a parking structure elsewhere on campus.

Delaying the project costs money and could jeopardize state and private funding, he wrote.

McCormick did acknowledge that the UW's planning process for the campus's physical development could be better, judging from the controversy generated over the law-school project. As a result, UW administrators and faculty leaders are trying to come up with revised planning procedures.

In the memo, the president said returning the law school to the main campus will increase "the cross-disciplinary exchange of ideas" with other programs at the university.

The law school is housed in Condon Hall, three blocks west of the main campus, on Northeast 41st Street, bordered by 11th and 12th Avenues Northeast.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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