For the past five years I have chaired the Juniper Ridge Management Advisory Board, so I understand its positive attributes, as well as the limitations of its existing infrastructure.
In May 2012, I agreed to assist Becky Johnson in selecting a new campus for Oregon State University-Cascades Campus as an unpaid volunteer. We recruited four others to join with me in a voluntary real estate advisory committee, including Mike Hollern, Bill Smith, Kirk Schueler and Todd Taylor. Collectively, the group has extensive knowledge of Bend real estate. The community owes them a big thank you for their service.
Our first task was to select a consultant to determine the building space and acreage required to accommodate 5,000 students by 2025. SRG was selected and earlier this year it issued a report advising that 50-60 acres would be required by 2025.
The ensuing site selection process was driven by four major considerations:
• Timing — residential facilities, and ideally classrooms, could be available at the chosen site by fall 2015.
• Amenities that appeal to prospective students, parents, faculty — reasonable proximity to health care, fitness facilities, public transit, trails, skiing, movie theaters and retail.
• Ability to grow — 10-20 acres for initial development and 50-60 acres total.
• Cost — obtain maximum value from donor and taxpayer funds not only initially but as the campus expands.
The search initially focused on existing buildings near the OSU-Cascades Graduate and Research Center on Columbia Street. Asking prices for existing buildings to be converted for university use were high, and there was concern about availability and escalating cost for future acquisitions of buildings and land parcels for growth.
Several large acreage parcels such as Juniper Ridge and others outside the urban growth boundary, both west and east side, were considered. Juniper Ridge could conceivably accommodate the initial 10-20 acres in the employment zone, but to satisfy the 2025 goals, the land would have to be in the north end. The cost to provide sanitary sewer, water and roads could be in excess of $20 million. Neither the university nor city can afford this in the next few years. For the sites outside the UGB, all would require substantial costs to extend the infrastructure and could not have finished buildings by 2015 even with expedited time frames to annex and zone any of these properties. Also, all of these sites are farther from the desired amenities.
In contrast, the location of the two adjoining west-side parcels is ideal for the desired amenities. The 10.4-acre parcel at Century and Chandler avenues is properly zoned, and the initial buildings can be completed by fall 2015. The size of the pumice pit in the adjoining 46 acre parcel is initially daunting, but with proper geotechnical engineering, it can be structurally filled to be as sound as any site. There may also be ways to take advantage of some of the existing topography without having to completely fill the site. Even if it is completely filled, initial estimates show the total cost of the grade-ready site will be about $8-$9 per square foot. This compares favorably to the finished site costs, including all infrastructure, at Juniper Ridge and other large outlying parcels. Asking prices for land in the Colorado Avenue area are now $12–$15 per square foot and higher, and they could escalate as the economy recovers. With the acquisition of the combined 56 acres in the west-side location, the university will own enough land to meet its 2025 goals. There is the possibility of future growth beyond as the former county landfill property is eventually remediated.
There will be opportunities for public input as the university plans the new campus and it becomes a reality. However, compared with Juniper Ridge, or any other site, for now the west-side location satisfies the search considerations for the new OSU-Cascades campus.