The Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center has been saved, although the future of its Sunflower House remains in doubt.
Oregon State University officials announced at Monday’s City Council meeting that the university and the literacy center’s board have reached an agreement on a plan that will move the center from the Sunflower House on Southwest Ninth Street to an OSU-owned building on Northwest Jackson Avenue.
The nonprofit literacy center, which has been providing a wide range of cultural, language and educational services at 128 S.W. Ninth Street for the past 12 years, had received notice from OSU that its lease would expire in March 2018 because the property at the east end of the campus is going to be used for new upper-division student housing.
Literacy center officials had balked at the offer of the Jackson Avenue property, the former site of OSU’s Asian & Pacific Cultural Center, because it is much smaller than the Sunflower House. The university, however, sealed the deal with a series of offers of assistance to the center that will ultimately total more than $200,000.
Here is a look at the agreement, as outlined at the council meeting by Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president of university relations and marketing:
• The university will spend $180,000 to expand and improve the Jackson house, adding 600 to 800 square feet, turning the garage into a meeting room and upgrading the kitchen.
• The university will spend $5,000 to move the literacy center to its new location.
• The university will provide $1,200 per month to assist with operating costs while continuing the charge the literacy center $1 per month in rent.
• OSU will provide two reserved parking spots next to the building and also allow the center to use four daily parking permits, an $8,000 value.
“We worked very hard to understand the role that the Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center plays in the community and we are strongly in support of this work,” said Clark, who was joined in the announcement by Sandy Riverman, literacy center board chair.
Riverman was one of the dozens of community members in the standing-room-only crowd at the downtown fire station who carried or wore a sunflower in support of the center.
The OSU-literacy center deal, however, does not include a future of certainty for the Sunflower House, which was built in 1909.
“Our offer,” Clark said, “does not preclude anyone from buying or moving the house.”
Clark added that the university would be happy to work with potential owners, although he said no one has come forward yet.
Counting Clark, 10 residents either addressed councilors on the issue or ceded their three minutes of time to others. Literacy center backers who spoke still strongly — and sometimes emotionally — urged the City Council to assist in keeping the center at its current location.
“Yes, I am heartsick,” said Jason Sarkozi. “The Sunflower House is more than the sum of its programs.”
Sarkozi also criticized OSU President Ed Ray for not “taking advantage of a golden opportunity to listen to the neighbors.”
Genevieve Prentice, another literacy center backer, suggested that the move to the Jackson house be temporary and that OSU leave the Sunflower House intact while building its student housing around it. Once the project was completed, Prentice said, the literacy center could move back to Ninth Street.
Clark, however, said that such an approach would reduce the number of rooms it could build for students, making the project financially untenable.