Sizing up OSU's evolving vision

The challenge of turning an old pumice mine into usable university space

By David Wray / The Bulletin

The first building: How big is 146,000 square feet?

146,000 square feet is almost 31⁄2 downtown libraries.

That would be the size of the first building, or multi-building complex, that Oregon State University-Cascades Campus is planning for its new four-year campus. The goal is to have the facility built by 2015 for the first class of freshmen. To visualize how big this “living and learning” center would be, consider the Downtown Bend Public Library.

The center is slated for the 10-acre parcel across from Cascade Lakes Lodge on Bend's west side, where the land is construction-ready.

Filling the pit: How much is 1.6 million cubic-yards?

The challenge before OSU-Cascades is turning the other parcel, 46 acres that includes an old pumice mine, into usable space for a university. Leveling the land, if the school decides to go that route, would require many, many truckloads of fill material — the university's rough estimate is 1.6 million cubic-yards' worth. That would be equal to more than 150,000 dump truck loads if using 13-ton-capacity trucks. Or, imagine the Olympic-size 50-meter pool at Juniper Swim & Fitness Center being filled with dirt, or some other fill material, more than 700 times. Not to say that such an earth-moving feat is impossible; at nearby Summit High, the athletic fields were built atop an old pumice mine, though that project was not without problems.

Future building: What about the waste?

Aside from the mine, this part of southwest Bend includes a former commercial and industrial landfill, and a recent environmental assessment found evidence that remnants of the old construction waste may have migrated into the site chosen for the new campus. The university is looking to trade potentially unsuitable land for other land owned by the county. That hasn't happened yet, and testing for more waste and other environmental analysis will continue, especially since the campus may look to the former landfill for future expansion in case 56 acres isn't enough. Meanwhile, if today's property purchase happens as planned, current site plans will be sent to the city in the spring, showing building designs and landscaping changes.

Watch for stories about these topics in upcoming editions of The Bulletin.