OSU-Cascades plans for housing

Task force discusses dearth of available rentals

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Jun 19, 2014 at 12:01AM

A group tasked with making recommendations for OSU-Cascades’ future expansion addressed the challenge of housing students near the university’s proposed west-side campus Wednesday, noting a significant need for new off-campus residences.

The report was made by the housing task force of the Campus Expansion and Advisory Committee (CEAC), a volunteer group of community residents, city staff members and university leaders. CEAC’s aim is to provide guidance for the development of a new four-year campus on a 10-acre parcel near the Southwest Chandler Avenue and Century Drive roundabout. The site, which is meant to serve up to 1,900 students, is under review following a hearing last week.

The primary recommendation from the task force is to house 40 percent of students on campus and 25 percent near campus in the long-term.

While the university has purchased only one 10-acre site, the recommendations were made in reference to plans for a larger campus meant to serve 5,000 students. OSU-Cascades is considering purchasing an adjacent 46-acre site that was formerly a pumice mine, but if the land is not suitable to build on, it may also look to buy existing buildings in the area.

Nationally, 40 percent of public university students live on campus, but in Oregon, the rate is around 20 percent. Much of the housing task force’s report focused on the challenge of finding nearby off-campus housing for students with Bend’s rental vacancy rate hovering around 1 percent.

“With such a low vacancy rate, Bend doesn’t have a place to put these new students, so our assumption is you will have to build,” said Bill Bernardy, a resident of Skyliner Summit who presented the task force’s recommendations. “By definition, someone will be displaced. Either students will have to pitch tents on campus or current residents will get displaced.”

A key component of reaching the 40 percent on-campus target is a requirement that all full-time freshmen live on campus. Nonetheless, Bernardy stressed that having housing near the campus is essential to ensure a minimum number of students drive to campus, which is one of OSU-Cascades’ most promoted goals for the campus.

Despite the call for 40 percent of students to live on campus — which translates to 2,000 beds once the university expands beyond 10 acres — the only housing currently planned is for a 300-bed dorm. However, the task force proposal calls for the number of students living on or near campus to be ramped up to the goal of 65 percent by 2025. This gradual increase is driven in part by the likelihood that when the campus first opens, the majority of its students will not be new and will already live in Bend.

Bernardy’s presentation also noted that on-campus housing will have to be attractive to students, saying his group’s research found students expect amenities such as study spaces, exercise rooms and health facilities. However, more time was spent discussing university policies targeting those living off-campus, such as having a contact person for neighbor complaints, training programs for students moving off campus and university contact with landlords.

As for creating such housing, Associate Vice President for Finance and Strategic Planning Kelly Sparks said the university has been approached by multiple developers interested in creating buildings targeting OSU-Cascades students. Sparks also said that within one-half mile of the proposed campus are nearly 60 acres of available land.

“Our focus is on academics, not development, but we’re open to public-private partnerships and other creative solutions to housing,” Sparks said.

Central Oregon Community College President Jim Middleton, who was present at the meeting, suggested a property owned by his institution near the Northwest Shevlin Park Road and Mt. Washington Drive roundabout could be developed in some way to serve university housing.

“It could be both for some of our students and some of OSU’s students,” he said. “The problem is the window is not going to be long.”

After the housing report, OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson, the highest ranking OSU administrator in Bend, announced that the university adopted 71 of the 90 recommendations from the neighborhood livability, transportation and sustainability task forces. The majority of recommendations not accepted, Johnson said, are still under consideration or are out of the university’s hands.

As an example of something outside her control, she cited a proposed agreement with the city of Bend about targeted policing efforts around the new campus.

“We can’t just tell them to sign this (memorandum of understanding),” she said.

The policies adopted included measures to minimize construction noise and to promote positive student behavior. For transportation, Johnson said the university is committed to providing the infrastructure to encourage alternative modes of transit and will offer students and staff transit passes so they can ride Cascade East Transit buses for free.

In October, the CEAC health care and regional collaboration task forces will make final recommendations to the university.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com