The University of Washington has announced plans to build a lot of new student housing on the west side of its main campus, filling in parking lots and easing the space crunch for the 5,100 students who now live in dorms. There will be eight new buildings, mostly six stories high. This is a good move, for several reasons, and an interesting opportunity for urbanism. UW President Mark Emmert wants undergraduates to have a richer student life, beyond just attending classes and the occasional football game. Having more places to live on campus, and in dorms that have seminar rooms and auditoriums, is a good step in this direction. Most nights, the UW really does feel like a commuter campus, with few folks around and few events scheduled. And of course with housing so expensive in Seattle, more UW students have to live farther away from campus. For a long time, the University District tended to think of the UW as a large beast that needed to be kept in its cage, stopped from expanding outward. The new thinking is that campus and nearby city should not be sharply demarcated but more shuffled together, with commercial spaces interpenetrating ivory towers. The Ave, having been hollowed out by competition from University Village and the invasion of teenagers, is now much more interested in welcoming the University to revitalize dead blocks and bring more streetlife. The UW has a fine record of building handsome, contextual new buildings on campus. Now it has a chance to show architectural and urbanistic flare on the perimeter. A footnote: Mike McGavick, who was Safeco CEO from 2001-05, is leaving Seattle to head a Bermuda insurance firm, XL Capital Ltd. McGavick was a strong advocate, while at Safeco, for creating a more vibrant University District, along the lines of Cambridge, Mass. It wasn't easy: the UW was standoffish, and ultimately Safeco (under McGavick's successor) decided to move headquarters to downtown. Safeco Tower will now become UW Tower, staking new presence for the U. in the district. So maybe McGavick's advocacy paid off? At any rate, his strong concern for city values will be missed.