Wednesday, July 10, 2013

OSU-Cascades already lost in the forest

Now that Oregon legislators backed $16 million in bonds for an Oregon State University branch campus in Bend, it's a wonder why they did so given the fact that there is no location for the school just yet.

Yes, a few million was raised locally for OSU-Cascades, which currently occupies its own building on the campus of Central Oregon Community College in west Bend.

For the past decade, the city of Bend has been trying to lure a four-year, "world class" research university to its fledgling mixed-use project, Juniper Ridge, on Bend's north end.

But, the current "brain trust" at OSU-Cascades rejected Juniper Ridge because it would take too much expensive infrastructure to make it a reality.

Meanwhile, property owners in and around the Shevlin Center, a business "park" on Bend's west side, were preparing for a heroin fix of government money to cash in at the public's expense with the hope of siting the branch campus amid a hodge-podge of office buildings.

Now, the daily newspaper says OSU-Cascades is looking at the former Deschutes County demolition landfill on Bend's west side for the new campus.

Are you kidding me? WTF?

There is no infrastructure at the site, so it would make no sense to choose this location over Juniper Ridge, since Juniper Ridge is designed to handle traffic that a 5,000-student university would generate. The west side of Bend is designed to handle no more traffic than it currently does.

The real problem with the former 68-acre demo landfill is that it was already the subject of a lawsuit when a boy was badly burned there from the subterranean fires that still burn to this day from all the construction debris dumped there.

Plus, throw in the probability of hazardous waste being chucked there over the years and you have a potential catastrophe on your hands.

Plus, 68 acres is too small. When COCC was created in the early 1960s, 100 acres was considered the minimum amount of space.

When you allow for student housing, OSU-Cascades would need even more than 100 acres for its campus.

I would expect such nucklehead thinking from the University of Oregon since it gave up its engineering college decades ago.

But, OSU is known for its engineering school. Have these folks lost all sense of deductive reasoning?

Do they know what they're doing?

Evidently not.

Since the educated folks at the higher ed levels in this state cannot envision the scenic campus of COCC evolving into OSU-Cascades, than Juniper Ridge is the only real alternative for the branch campus.

It's more centrally located for the population of Central Oregon. Plus, Juniper Ridge was designed for such an institution. The west side of Bend is not designed for anything but boutique shops and brewpubs.

If the "smart" folks can't figure out where to site OSU-Cascades, put it up for a vote of the people, like what happened decades ago when Bend was picked over Redmond for COCC.

Clearly, there is no need to rush into a disastrous decision.

We've lived this long without a legitimate four-year university. We can wait a few more years until we get this right.


  1. Well, you know what they say about opinions, and you are certainly welcome to yours. That said, there are a few points in your post above with which I disagree.

    You refer to the "design" of Juniper Ridge several times, including mention of infrastructure to support a university. I happened to be involved with the Master Planning process for the site and have a different view of those statements. It is true that the Master Plan was "designed" to feature a four-year campus, but only at the conceptual level. In reality Juniper Ridge does not currently have ANY infrastructure(roads, utilities, water/sewer) to serve such a large development. The infrastructure requirements it would take to make JR a reality for the campus are at least as formidable as they would be for the other locations OSU is considering, and in some ways substantially greater. Furthermore, only 600 acres of the 1500-acre property (zoned light-industrial) are currently within the UGI, with the remainder left to the ongoing UGI debate between the City and the State. For all of its' promise Juniper Ridge is still many years away from fulfillment.

    It is also true that any location OSU considers will bring advantages and disadvantages, including the former construction landfill site. You can be assured that the "brain-trust" at OSU have considered location options quite carefully and in response to community values. The campus went through a thorough space needs analysis to arrive at campus footprint projections using multiple density scenarios. In short, they know what they need for the next 50 years.

    Here's another way to look at the Juniper Ridge question. When the City began its ill-fated process of planning for JR the initial RFP focused heavily on development of light-industrial land in response to increasing demand and declining supply of suitable land within existing city limits. The housing boom and increased potential revenue tempted the City to change course part-way through the RFP process, throwing a university into the mix as an after-thought. Today the light-industrial lands in the developed core of Bend stand-out like a sore-thumb, gradually losing ground to the more highly-valued land uses associated with a mature City. The demand for light-industrial land remains--in fact has increased--but the availability of suitable land has declined....except for Juniper Ridge.

    An alternative approach would be to consider using Juniper Ridge for its originally intended purpose--to support light industrial development--while using the higher value land in Bend for more highly-valued (and more esthetic) land uses that will generate MORE jobs per acre, provide MORE opportunities for business incubation, and provide GREATER amenities that enhance the quality of life in Bend.

    It is obvious to me that there are multiple reasonable options for where the Cascades Campus can locate, and in almost every scenario there will be positive impacts for Central Oregon. Instead of being so critical perhaps you might consider participating in the process as it unfolds. I can assure you that the folks at OSU Cascades are both intelligent and reasonable.

  2. Thoughtful response. I know that Juniper Ridge does not currently have the infrastructure for OSU-Cascades. But, at least the infrastructure is planned for, unlike at the former 60-acre landfill, which has no infrastructure in place to accommodate OSU-Cascades and nothing planned.

    Plus, if COCC has about 2,500 FTE students and the goal of OSU-Cascades is to have at least 5,000 FTE students, well the former landfill and Shevlin Center are too small to accommodate this campus. COCC has nearly 150 acres. Why would OSU-Cascades want less than half the space for twice the enrollment? Makes no sense.

    Finally, I would like to be a part of the process, but no organization, public or private, wants anyone involved that does not adhere to the pre-conceived plan.

    If the current powers that be in Bend really want to site OSU-Cascades on Bend's west side, then they should do what RL Coats did for COCC in the early 1960s and donate land or buildings for the cause.

    Fifty years ago, the public good was part of the equation. Today, it is all about what a company can extract from taxpayers.

    That said, I'm in favor of expanding OSU-Cascades, but the process has been co-opted by those who can directly profit from the expansion.