Editorial: Focus energy on solving branch’s challenges

Published Mar 18, 2014 at 12:01AM

The site for Bend’s four-year university may not be perfect, but it’s a good choice that judiciously balances a variety of factors.

And it’s here to stay. Critics would be wise to join the effort to solve the challenges, rather than attempting to undo what is done.

As The Bulletin’s Tyler Leeds reported Monday, the university’s real estate committee considered multiple sites throughout the city. The early vision of acquiring several buildings around the branch’s current graduate facility on Colorado Avenue fell under the weight of climbing real estate prices. The north-side Juniper Ridge site requires expensive infrastucture work and is too far away from amenities critical to attracting and supporting students and faculty. The east-side Stevens Road Tract is expensive, outside the city’s Urban Growth Boundary and far from amenities. Other properties weren’t for sale.

And so on. The exploration for possible sites was no slapdash affair; it was thorough and thoughtful.

The selected site’s two parcels on Southwest Chandler Avenue are large enough — a combined 56 acres — and the adjacent county landfill property may open up expansion options in the future. Retail and recreation are nearby. It’s the right decision, barring unforeseen environmental or geological issues.

That said, as readers of this page know, we think the university needs to be more forthcoming about parking and traffic planning. It’s patronizing to keep assuring critics that obvious problems — where will all those cars go? — really aren’t problems. University planners need to acknowledge the issues and be more transparent about how they’ll deal with them.

Opponents are seeking to organize opposition to the location, and we sympathize with their frustration about getting straight answers on traffic and parking. But they’re taking the wrong path.

This university expansion is a much-needed and well-deserved gift to Bend and Central Oregon. It will enhance our lives in ways we have yet to discover. This isn’t just economic development — although it surely is that — it’s also cultural and intellectual. It will educate, enlighten and empower those of us who live here. It will bring people to our community who will deepen and broaden our lives.

The key now is doing it right. The university has committees exploring a variety of issues, seeking to make well-informed decisions in every area. Supporters and critics alike should expend their energies, helping to overcome the challenges, not to block the enrichment.