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Cornish Breaks Ground for New Residence Hall

Cornish Breaks Ground for New Residence Hall

: Architecture firm Ankrom Moisan's rendering of the new residence hall . Photo by courtesy of Cornish.

Cornish Breaks Ground for New Residence Hall

: Left: c1921, before the partly constructed Cornish School—Nellie Cornish is second from right, next to Calvin Brainerd Cady; right: 2014, on the site of the new residence hall—(l-r) LaSheena Taft, housing coordinator; President Nancy Uscher, Jerry Hekkel, Dean of Student Life; John Paul, Director of Housing and Residence Life; and Katie McAteer, residence hall director. Photo by Unknown (left); Mark Bocek (right); .

Cornish Breaks Ground for New Residence Hall

: Ground is broken for the new hall by (l-r) Vicki Clayton, VP for Special Projects; Glen Amster, master of ceremonies and former trustee; C. Douglas Francis, trustee; Bruce McKee, Principal, Capstone Development Partners; Cornish President Nancy Uscher; Sara Henley-Hicks (TH '14), president of the Cornish Student Leadership Council; Virginia Anderson, Chair, Cornish Board of Trustees; and Jeff Ridell, VP for Finance and Administration. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Cornish Breaks Ground for New Residence Hall

: President Nancy J. Uscher, the first woman and first musician to head Cornish since Nellie Cornish herself with Sara Henley-Hicks (TH '14), president of the Cornish Student Leadership Council. Photo by Marianne Francis.

Cornish Breaks Ground for New Residence Hall

: Chair of the Cornish Board of Trustees Virginia Anderson. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Cornish Breaks Ground for New Residence Hall

: Crowd at the groundbreaking, plus at center: Trustees Marianne Sorich Francis (AR '96), Sherry Raisbeck (AR '88), and Carol Munro. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Cornish Breaks Ground for New Residence Hall

: Crowd at the groundbreaking. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Cornish Breaks Ground for New Residence Hall

: (l-r) Capstone's Bruce McKee; Cornish President Nancy J. Uscher; C. Douglas Francis, trustee; Virginia Anderson, Chair, Cornish Board of Trustees; and Glen Amster, master of ceremonies and former trustee. Photo by Marianne Francis.

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With ground officially broken, Cornish College of the Arts begins construction on a game-changing residence hall in the fastest growing part of downtown Seattle.

A lot of questions were answered about Cornish’s staying power with several shovels-full of Denny Triangle dirt. What seemed a near impossible task just a little over a decade ago when the college’s board decided to move the center of campus downtown now enters its endgame. With that turned soil, Cornish has launched the next phase of its campus development, the building of a residence hall and learning center. The surrounding neighborhood will soon be treated to the sight of the 20-story tower rising — just as Cornish settles into its centennial year.

While Cornish has been very active acquiring, preserving, remodeling, and refitting buildings in the Triangle and now at Seattle Center, the new residence hall will represent a dramatic departure and a major leap forward. It will be college’s first purpose-constructed building since its first structure on Capitol Hill, now known as Kerry Hall. That’s right: the last time the college broke ground for a brand new building, it was Nellie Cornish herself there with the shovel.

“On January 21, 1921,” Cornish wrote in her autobiography, Miss Aunt Nellie, “I took a small group of pupils up to Harvard Avenue North and East Roy Street to watch as I broke the ground. There had been some snow, but in spite of the frozen ground, after some hard digging I succeeded in turning some soil, and the steam shovels started to work.”

The construction of that first Cornish School in 1921 was a turning point. Ninety-three years later, a new pair of hands has grasped the shovel. Dr. Nancy J. Uscher is the first woman to lead the school since Nellie herself. President Uscher acknowledged the importance of the project to the college’s future. “This new building will give our incoming students a beautiful new place to live and learn right in the very heart of our downtown campus,” she said.

The new residence hall will soon be home to 432 students. Its doors will open in the fall of 2015, during the Cornish centennial year, which will be observed from November 14, 2014, to November 14, 2015. Centrally located in the main campus at 2025 Terry Avenue, the corner of Lenora Street and Terry Avenue, the hall’s ground floor is conceived of as “the living room of the campus,” where residents and non-residents alike will gather. The 20th floor will be a wonderful amenity space for residents, offering a workout area, outdoor deck, game room, laundry, group kitchen, and “great room.”

Just as the Cornish School made do with temporary lodging before it built its new building in 1921, the college has made do with leased accomodation for its live-in students. Just as the construction of Kerry Hall announced that Cornish was here to stay, the new residence hall completes the journey the institution began when it reinvented itself as a college in 1977.

It was not too long ago that no housing was available for Cornish students. Only in 2009 were the trustees able to secure the use of two older hotels to convert to residence halls. The buildings have served the college well but are now in the path of further redevelopment in South Lake Union. Putting together the partnership that is constructing this housing tower became a priority for the college.

There is no question that the new hall is a stratospheric step up for student life at Cornish. In addition to housing students from Cornish, the building will also be a residence for students who attend City University, per a lease agreement between the two schools.

The new building will tower over the historic, protected buildings that now make up Cornish’s main campus. Catty-corner from the seven-story, art deco Main Campus Center (1928, on the National Register of Historic Places) and across the street from the three-story Notion Building (also art deco, 1930), the new residence hall will rise to its full 20 stories. The new hall will create a visual connection to the larger glass-and-steel towers that are springing up all around the campus, which include the buildings of neighboring Amazon.com.

In addition to 16 floors of resident rooms, the new hall will feature a community kitchen and great room, fitness and media studios, laundry facilities, plus live-in apartments for the supervisory staff and office space for the Housing, Residential Life and Student Affairs offices. The building will also contain more than 16,000 square feet of space specifically designed for classes, workshops and other on-site learning activities.

The building was designed by the architecture firm Ankrom Moisan, with Capstone Development Partners as the project developer and manager. Long-time Seattle fixture Howard S. Wright — builders of the Space-Needle and much of the rest of the city’s skyline — will act as general contractor for the construction. Bruce McKee is a Principal at Capstone, “We are delighted to be partnering with Cornish College to create a residence hall that will enhance the on-campus experience for both its new and returning students.”


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