Redmond will get to see long-sought city projects realized soon through a program with University of Oregon students.

Faculty and students will partner with Redmond for an annual program that plans city projects for sustainability and livability.

One of those undertakings will be to expand Centennial Park to about twice its size, adding a full city block just west of the park. The downtown park was built in 2010, but the following year, the city decided it needed to be larger. The expansion will be about an acre.

This project, along with others to improve bike transportation routes, add a parking garage downtown and plan for how to react to the Cascadia earthquake will be worked on by students in the program alongside staffers from the city or various groups.

The Sustainable City Year program, created in 2009 as part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the university, allows students to participate in projects for the city promoting economic growth and environmental health. Each year a few cities apply; Redmond was chosen for the 2015-16 academic school year.

Gresham, Salem, Springfield and Medford are all cities previously involved in the program, but Redmond is the first partner from Central Oregon. Professors from many disciplines offer classes involved in the program, including architecture, law, business, journalism, geography, public policy and management, economics, product design and digital arts.

Marc Schlossberg, co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, said it’s all about cities using students’ professional skills. Students gain experience in the field they are studying and partner cities get to see ideas become a reality.

Redmond City Council approved the partnership Tuesday night for a budget not to exceed $375,000. The majority of these funds, the council said, were already allotted to the various projects. Now, the Sustainable City Year program will be helping to complete them, starting next week.

Heather Richards, Redmond’s director of community development, said other organizations such as the Redmond Chamber of Commerce, Redmond Downtown Association, Oregon Department of Transportation and Redmond School District have expressed interest in being involved.

This “matchmaking” process between the organizations and classes occurs now, in the spring quarter, according to Schlossberg.

“I think in general, it’s great for a lot of different disciplines to see how cities work,” Schlossberg said. “And that what they’re studying is relevant.”

It’s clear students see that their work in the program matters to residents and this is exciting for them. One of those excited students is projects coordinator for the program Bree Nicolello, 21, a junior at the University of Oregon. As a freshman, she came to the program’s co-directors asking how she could be involved. She was put right to work, which Schlossberg said is what the program is all about.

Although Nicolello has been involved in the project planning side, this year will mark the first time she gets to participate as a student in one of the classes. She is enrolled in Schlossberg’s bike transportation course for the spring quarter that will move Redmond toward being more friendly to bike commuters. The class is within Nicolello’s major: planning, public policy and management.

“We’re going to look at how to improve infrastructure,” Nicolello said. “I’m pretty excited … I’ve never actually been able to participate.”

Currently, many cyclists in Redmond choose to bike recreationally, not for convenience. Schlossberg and his students will partner with Scott Woodford, an associate planner for the Redmond Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee who wants to work on Dry Canyon Trail. The bike trail runs through the center of town but is mainly used for recreation. Woodford’s goal, with the help of the Sustainable City Year program, will be to motivate residents to use it for transportation too, by making improvements to the path. A journalism class can then create a public relations campaign to spread the word.

“The cities suggest 20 to 30 projects and then we find classes that can work on the project,” Nicolello said.

The university runs on a quarter system, but the program will run throughout the year.

“Oftentimes the new class will come in and carry on the work that the original class started,” Nicolello said.

Over the year, Schlossberg said, students and faculty generally put in more than 60,000 hours.

“The reason the program works so well,” said Schlossberg, “is we try to meet professors where they are and how they already teach.”

But aside from gaining professional knowledge, Schlossberg said there was an additional benefit for students realized after the program started six years ago. He noticed they were learning how government works on a local level, an asset for any citizen.

“It gives them an understanding of how local government works,” Schlossberg said. “That wasn’t something we set out to do but it’s become clear to us and it’s something we’re really proud of.”

Another outcome of the project is the relationships students and faculty build with surrounding communities.

“(Cities can) identify students who are really proactive and find some internships or jobs for them,” said Schlossberg, explaining it’s important to keep young people involved in local government. “There’s a national moment in getting people interested in local government work.”

Schlossberg said he has seen connections happen in the past where students have never been to a city and a year later they are deeply attached to it.

“Sometimes those students want to return,” Schlossberg said. “It’s beautiful.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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