West Bend acres for Cascades

OSU hopes approval from State Board committee to spend $12.9 million

By Lauren Dake / The Bulletin

Published: September 14. 2013 4:00AM PST

SALEM — Oregon State University-Cascades has found its campus.

The university has identified more than 50 acres in west Bend where it hopes to build the state’s newest four-year university.

“The most important thing is this secures the future for both the community and the university, so we can get down to the business of planning a campus that people can be proud of,” said OSU Vice President Becky Johnson, the highest ranking administrator at OSU-Cascades.

It’s a huge step for the university that anticipates enrolling freshman and sophomore students for the first time in fall 2015. The university expects approval Fridayfrom the State Board of Higher Education, Committee on Finance & Administration, of the $12.855 million purchase price.

The property is still subject to environmental impact studies and one parcel will need filling and grading.

But identifying the site is key in helping recruit the first class of freshmen to the area.

“Location matters,” said Wendy Castillo, a senior at OSU-Cascades and president of the student government. “Location is huge.”

The university has agreements to buy two properties adjacent to one another, a total of 56.44 acres. The property is about 2 miles from downtown Bend and about 3 miles from Central Oregon Community College. One parcel, a wooded lot at 1500 S.W. Chandler Ave., is 10.44 acres and zoned for limited commercial use, which means the university can break ground there quickly. Its proposed selling price is $4.98 million.

The other parcel, 46.29 acres at 1707 S.W. Chandler, is zoned for residential use and contains a pumice mine. The proposed purchase price is $7.875 million. The university estimates spending another $4 million to $7 million to fill and level the mine site.

An appraiser reported that although the mine site needs extensive work, “there are simply no other sites as large as the subject property on the West Side that are already within the City and could support such a wide range of potential uses,” according to a summary on the finance committee agenda.

The university considered the Juniper Ridge property north of downtown, but ruled it out, according to campus communications director Christine Coffin, “because of the additional state investment required, lack of nearby amenities that a university campus would require and the timeframe needed to create sewer, water and traffic infrastructure.”

The most immediate and next step, said Kelly Sparks, associate vice president of finance and strategic planning for the campus, is to create a master plan. In coming weeks, the university plans to prioritize what needs to be built and where. University officials said they are still considering buying existing buildings or leasing nearby until something can be built.

“But the immediate need is a living-learning center, so if we bring freshmen here in 2015 they have a place to live at, so that parents feel it’s managed and supervised,” Johnson said. The university hopes to have 3,000-5,000 students enrolled by 2025. It currently has about 1,000 students.

The university expects to break ground by spring 2014. The university has raised $24 million for the project — $16 million in general-fund backed bonds, $4 million the community donated and another $4 million from the university. About half is dedicated to purchasing the property. The remainder will go toward site planning and construction.

Johnson said she’s looking forward to really helping people visualize the campus and getting underway with the campus drawings.

“People will get on board and see this will be a great thing for the community,” she said.

The campus fits the bill of what university officials were looking for, including being close to downtown and plenty of hiking and biking trails.

And although Castillo will have graduated by the time the university’s transformation to a four-year institution is complete, she’s excited about the possibilities.

“I’m a single mom,” she said, “and it would be an honor for me to see my daughter in the future go to OSU-Cascades.”

— Reporter: 541-554-1162, ldake@bendbulletin.com