UW Tacoma's Joy Building wins New Tacoma Award

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Ghilarducci Award recognizes last great renovation 


In the two decades since the University of Washington Tacoma was founded, it'’s been steadily working on transforming century-old, neglected and boarded-up buildings into beautiful, state-of-the-art university classrooms. The Joy Building, the most recent to undergo top-to-bottom renovation, received the Ghilarducci Award during the New Tacoma Award presentations on April 1.

Sponsored by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, the annual New Tacoma Awards spotlights businesses, organizations and individuals that make outstanding contributions to downtown Tacoma. The Ghilarducci Award, named after Lawrence R. Ghilarducci Jr., who was chamber president in 1976-77, recognizes the best successful new development, renovation or beautification.  

Built in 1892 during Tacoma's boom days, the Russell T. Joy Building has been home to businesses that made candy, wood stoves, paper and gloves, and sold hardware, coffee, tea, tires and Studebakers.

Dale Chihuly used it as a staging area for the glass artwork featured in the nearby Bridge of Glass.

The Joy Building opened for classes in March. It includes 16 classrooms, offices for the student advising center and retail space along Pacific Avenue. Great views from the east-facing classrooms reveal the Union Station, Mount Rainier and the Port of Tacoma.

The latest renovation, designed by THA Architects and contracted by Korsmo Construction, integrated the huge beams and exposed brick that lend a warm, historical feeling to the structure. Material from the building was salvaged and reused wherever possible. Beams were re-milled for use in railings and furniture. The mechanical parts of an old freight elevator from the building were salvaged and hung above the stairwell.

The tables in the small study spaces scattered through the building were made from salvaged flooring. Other 'green' features include a water garden to absorb storm water, water fountains outfitted with water bottle fillers and recycled fire doors installed for visual interest. The university will apply for a gold LEED certificate, and is close to qualifying for a platinum certificate.

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April 4, 2011