CORVALLIS — Weatherford Hall is a combination residence hall and classroom building on the Oregon State University campus.
Built in 1928 and renovated during a 10-year process that was completed in 2004, its ornate Italian Renaissance style and brickwork make it one of the most recognizable buildings on campus.
But if you mosey to the rear of the building which faces Jefferson Way there is an interesting view from a ramp on the building’s north-facing wing. It’s a snapshot of Oregon State’s future, with a field of view that includes three projects in varying stages of construction:
Austin Hall, the new home of the College of Business, will be open for business when the fall term starts Sept. 29.
To the east the wooden framework of the new Asian & Pacific Cultural Center is sprouting (it is scheduled to open early next year).
Behind Austin a giant crane pivots and swings and grinds as it guides the continuing work on a new classroom building set to come online in the fall of 2015.
It’s a new term at OSU, and new is the operative word here, although the university’s relationship with the community remains fraught with challenges related to parking, livability, development and enrollment growth.
The campus is awash in construction and other improvements, with a new 324-bed dormitory, Tebeau Hall, set for students to move into Sept. 24, new parking and transit strategies in place and a new intersection at Southwest 15th Street and Washington Way.
More than $250 million in construction, upgrades and other infrastructure work is either winding up for fall term or set to go online in the next two years.
“It’s an exciting time at OSU,” said President Ed Ray, who will be greeting his 12th freshman class since coming to the university from Ohio State.
“We are increasing our capacity to help students succeed. In the last two years, OSU has added 180 new tenure-track faculty, and we plan to add another 40 new faculty. And we have constructed and renovated numerous buildings around campus.”
The OSU Foundation is wrapping up a record-
setting fund-raising campaign that has produced more than $1 billion, with $237 million in donations heading toward new buildings and renovation.
OSU’s research arm reeled in $285 million in total grants and contracts in the fiscal year that ended June 30, and accelerator and innovation efforts are helping to fund startup businesses throughout the mid-valley.
University officials interviewed for this story spoke in glowing terms of the advantages the new facilities will offer the university, the community — and the world.
“Austin Hall is an extraordinary opportunity to have a facility that leverages the excellent programs that we have created for our students and also provides the resources for our faculty to conduct their research, meet with students and collaborate,” said Ilene Kleinsorge, dean of the College of Business.
“It is our responsibility to provide programs and opportunities to the citizens of the state in a way that will allow them to have an impact on the economic development in their local community, throughout the region, the U.S and around the world.
“In today’s global economy that requires the technology to connect with the world without ever leaving Corvallis, and now we have that technology and capability.”
Dan Larson, executive director of University Housing and Dining Services, expressed strong pride in the Tebeau Hall dorm, named after a pioneering African-American OSU student. Larson noted that there will be a satellite medical clinic at the residence hall and new menu options for on-campus meal services.
“We anticipate this new community will be very attractive to first-year and upper-division students alike, and provide an environment that is engaging and that will support their academic pursuits,” Larson said.
And the beat goes on. Monday, a groundbreaking will be held for Johnson Hall, a $40 million addition to the College of Engineering that Dean Scott Ashford said “will have a powerful impact on Oregon and our world.”
It is a good time to be a Beaver. But amid the gleaming new buildings on a campus that will welcome an estimated 25,000 students in two weeks lies another layer in the Oregon State story.
Several of the new buildings (Tebeau, the Student Experience Center and, ultimately, Johnson Hall) were constructed on what had been parking lots, and community leaders have expressed concerns about whether the university is providing enough parking for its faculty, staff and students.
Residents also are troubled by enrollment growth that has seen the student population rise more than 25 percent from 19,923 in the fall of 2009 to the 25,000 that Kate Peterson, assistant provost for enrollment management, estimates will be on campus Sept. 29.
That growth, which has fueled larger numbers of students living off campus in the neighborhoods — as well as infill development trends that have changed those neighborhoods — sparked the Collaboration Corvallis project, the city-OSU partnership which for nearly three years has been working to ease the push and pull between town and gown.
“I’m very concerned about how the cumulative impact of OSU’s enrollment growth, significant building expansion and reduction in available parking will hit Corvallis later this month,” said Ward 1
Corvallis Councilor Penny York.
“Even more of our neighborhoods are likely to be overrun if OSU doesn’t act decisively.”
The university has spent More than $350,000 beefing up its student conduct office to handle off-campus student behavior. City of Corvallis voters, meanwhile, passed a renewal of a local option levy that will pay for three new police officers and the forming of a community livability patrol group.
And then there is parking.
A Collaboration Corvallis parking and traffic workgroup met 39 times before its recommendations were channeled to the city and university for fine tuning.
OSU undertook a massive outreach campaign that included on- and off-campus meetings and an online survey that reached more than 9,000 faculty, staff and students.
The city, meanwhile, handed over the parking problem to its Urban Services Committee and Public Works Department.
The city and OSU worked independently but with a collective intent to implement their plans in tandem for the fall term.
OSU announced a plan in April that features tiered pricing, with parking lots in the congested northern part of campus costing more than those near Reser Stadium. The university also expanded shuttle service and bike facilities, is investing $285,000 in improved lighting on Campus Way and contributed $140,000 for Corvallis and regional transit upgrades.
Corvallis, meanwhile, battled through 16 sometimes contentious Urban Services meetings, with one public outreach session featuring 45 residents speaking on the issue. The committee eventually approved a plan that would expand the current three parking districts to seven, essentially ringing the campus at a depth of five blocks.
The City Council passed the plan unanimously June 2.
The goal of both plans was to change parking and driving habits and lead to less congestion in the neighborhoods.
But only one of the plans, OSU’s, will be in place when school opens because opponents of the city plan gathered enough signatures to put it on the November ballot. If the parking districts are upheld by voters city Public Works Director Mary Steckel predicted that it would be February or March before the plan will be implemented.
In the meantime OSU is selling more expensive permits (top price of $495 per year as opposed to $267 last year) for a new system even though faculty, staff and students might conclude that it makes more sense — and cents — to park in the neighborhoods.
“My sense is that neighborhoods near campus will see commuter parking at levels at least comparable to last year,” said Courtney Cloyd, president of the Central Park Neighborhood Association and a member of the collaboration’s parking and traffic workgroup.
“The reduced cost of a permit to park near Reser Stadium and other outer lots, together with improved shuttle service from those areas will be attractive to some staff and students, but free parking in nearby neighborhoods will certainly be more attractive to most commuters.”
“I don’t know what they are doing for commuting students,” agreed Brendan Sanders, president of the Interfraternity Council. “They are going to be the most affected.”
The university recognizes the challenge of improving livability with half of an overall plan in place.
“OSU and the city had planned to launch both new parking systems simultaneously to have the most mutual benefit,” said Meredith Williams, associate director of transportation services.
“Regardless of the outcome of the plans for expanded residential parking districts, OSU’s new transportation programs and new zonal system are important steps for OSU and the community.”
Sanders, a fifth-year senior from Salem majoring in digital communications, said that the OSU system is a “necessary step to solve the parking problems on campus. If it helps that, it’s great.”
But Sanders had words of caution about prospects for congestion in the fall.
“Everyone parks on the streets ... because right now they can,” Sanders said.
Last year OSU had 6,991 on-campus parking spaces, down more than 300 from the 2012-13 total of 7,320, but its annual utilization survey shows that only 75 percent of the spaces are used each day.
Nevertheless, community leaders think OSU should be more aggressive in its management of current parking and more diligent in replacing spots it displaces with buildings.
“OSU needs to make the stadium lot free (cost this fall is $95), along with other lots that have capacity,” York said.
“If it were important to OSU to be a good partner they would be replacing every single parking spot they eliminate when they add a new building, plus additional parking needed by the users of that building.”
OSU’s current campus master plan does not require planning for new parking space until utilization reaches 85 percent, but David Dodson, campus planning manager told the Gazette-Times that the university has plans to add up to up to 80 spaces this year, with additional spaces being developed in coming years:
The plans include:
• A 40-space lot on the north side of Western Boulevard behind the LaSells Stewart Center
• An additional 30 to 40 spaces added by reconfiguring an existing lot on the west side of 30th Street south of Magruder Hall.
• Exploring options for developing a larger parking lot west of 30th between Washington and Jefferson.
Dodson said that the final number for parking spaces for this school year will not be available until the university’s annual parking study is released in December.
Meanwhile, Dodson and his department are working on the next campus master plan, which must go to the Corvallis City Council for approval by December 2015.
Councilors think the master plan process should be used to codify some of the issues the university and city have been working on.
“I intend to address the deficit of on-campus parking and housing as the city reworks the campus master plan,” said Ward 5 Councilor Mike Beilstein.
“There always have been, and always will be, livability costs associated with a major university in town. But the university is a tremendous community enhancement. The rapid growth of OSU over the last five years highlighted to citizens the deficit side of the balance of costs and benefits.
“As both OSU and the city adjust to the new growth we can return to a state of semi-contentment and peace in the relation of campus and neighbors.”
Here is a look at the major construction projects at Oregon State University:
Project Start Completion Cost
Austin Hall spring 2014 fall 2014 $50M
Asian & Pacific Cultural Center spring 2014 spring 2015 $2.4M
Black Cultural Center spring 2014 spring 2015 $2.4M
Classroom building fall 2013 fall 2015 $65M
Johnson Hall winter 2015 fall 2016 $40M
Memorial Union renovation fall 2013 summer 2014 $12M
Tebeau Hall spring 2013 fall 2014 $27M
Samaritan Sports Medicine Center spring 2014 winter 2014 $0*
Washington Way realignment spring 2014 fall 2014 $2.4M
Student Experience Center summer 2013 winter 2014 $42M
Strand Ag remodel winter 2014 winter 2015 $25M
*Samaritan is leasing the land from the university and is paying the construction costs
Year Enrollment* Increase
2009-10 19,923 6%
2010-11 21,490 8%
2011-12 22,335 4%
2012-13 23,218 4%
2013-14 24,158 4%
2014-15 **25,000 3.4&
* enrollment is for Corvallis campus only
** estimate only, official numbers will be available Oct. 10