Local real estate agents packed the conference room Friday morning at the St. Charles Heart Center to catch a glimpse of Central Oregon’s future.
Namely, how the area might look once it has its very own four-year university.
“It’s very positive from a Realtor’s standpoint,” said Sandy Goodsell, president of the Central Oregon chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors. “A four-year college would be an awesome feat for Central Oregon.”
Oregon State University Vice President Becky Johnson, the highest ranking administrator at OSU-Cascades, and Central Oregon Community College President Jim Middleton were guest speakers at the organization’s monthly meeting. About 50 people attended the event, eager to hear the changes that a growing higher education presence in Bend could create.
“Attendance for this event was maxed out,” Goodsell said. “It’s the largest meeting so far this year. It shows me that a lot of people are interested in hearing about what’s ahead.”
The presentations offered local real estate agents an overview of OSU plans to establish a four-year campus in the High Desert, in addition to an overview of where COCC expects to be in the next few years.
“It’s our job to have all the information about our area, because our clients from out of town come here and want to know,” said Gail Rogers, vice president of membership for the council. “It’s going to affect us in terms of not only property value, but in terms of economic value that it adds to the community.”
Johnson spoke about OSU-Cascades’ goal of becoming a destination of choice, where college students will be drawn because of its quality education and recreational amenities. With the goal of bringing more out-of-area students to Bend, Johnson said a four-year campus would help fuel the local workforce, especially in areas that have struggled to recruit qualified applicants — like the tech industry.
OSU is finalizing the almost $12.9 million purchase of 56 acres in southwest Bend, the prospective location of its future campus. Johnson explained the university is planning to open the first portion of its four-year campus, a living and learning center, on 10.44 acres on Southwest Chandler Drive in 2015.
“We’re really on a tight timeline,” Johnson said. “We have to think about this initial footprint. It has to be the guidance and standard for the rest of the campus.”
The second, larger portion of the campus is expected to develop into an integrated urban campus that can accommodate 5,000 students by 2025.
Middleton in his remarks focused on COCC’s high growth rate over the past few years. While not expected to continue at such a break-neck pace, growth at the college will continue to establish unique “beacon” programs thatattract students, Middleton said.
“The things that pushed growth here in the community are all still here,” Middleton said.
At the end of the presentation, Rogers checked to make sure that students who attended the new OSU campus would still be the Beavers — an essential question for any prospective student or parent.
“We will still be Beavers here,” Johnson said. “But maybe down the line we’ll have 5,000 students, and decide that we want our own football team.”
Jennifer Limoges, a broker with Colm Commercial in Bend, said though she wasn’t a council member, she felt compelled to attend the event out of a personal interest.
“Education is the gateway to everything,” said Limoges, who has a background in higher education. “I don’t want my children’s options to be limited simply because we live in a small town. I’m thrilled at the idea of having a four-year school here.”