By Bill Eddie

Officials in charge of planning the Oregon State University-Cascades campus are playing serious “small ball” as they endeavor to shoehorn a university into an already vibrant residential/commercial district of west Bend. The west side of Bend is already nearing short-term capacity with multiple new housing projects (NorthWest Crossing and Tetherow) and several existing grade schools as well as a junior college and Summit High School. Placing a university in the middle of existing residential and commercial harmony is a bad idea for the city.

The basic plan for OSU-Cascades calls for 56 acres, which we are told is an optimal size for a campus serving 3,000-5,000 students. We are also being told that 300 parking spaces will be adequate for phase one and that traffic will not be impacted in an already busy area of town. These vacuous assurances from committees with a dog in the fight serve little purpose other than to inflame people who have genuine questions about the proposed siting of the university.

While many west-side residents feel the proposed site to be totally inadequate, a larger question is why the OSU vision is so small. Does Bend really want a “satellite” campus of OSU-Corvallis or do we want a unique university that will pique the interests of students both locally and nationally?

Certainly a grander vision would require more acreage to fulfill the promise of a great university experience. There would be a need for dorms, classrooms, administration buildings, parking, athletic fields, aquatic facilities, gymnasiums and possibly a theater for the performing arts. Of course there would be great demand for apartments, housing, and commercial enterprises just off campus. In essence, by choosing a site with more acreage, Bend could develop an entire new district, the university district, which would represent a huge economic benefit to the city. The city, and the many businesses which flourish here, could easily adapt to create an atmosphere for college students that would compete for students across the country.

The obvious site for OSU-Cascades is Juniper Ridge, which boasts an area of some 1,200 to 1,500 acres. While there may be other adequate parcels, it has long been the vision of Bend leaders to place a university at that site. While there are infrastructure and connectivity challenges at Juniper Ridge, it would represent a “blank canvas” on which to create a world-class university. Moreover, it would allow the university to think in terms of 7,000 to 10,000 students (or more) when functioning at full capacity.

Oregon State University President Ed Ray has stated unequivocally that the OSU-Cascades campus will be built on the west side. He has further stated that any opposition to the project is basically irrelevant because “I grew up in New York City” and “I don’t scare.” That kind of reasoning should set off alarms for all Bend residents and is surprisingly immature for a university president. Ray should know that some concerned residents of Bend are not trying to “scare” him but do feel strongly that the chosen site is neither beneficial to Bend nor OSU.

Many west-side Bend citizens hope that the city and OSU will take another look at this building site and adopt a grand vision of a truly great university where space is unlimited, impacts to existing residents are minimal and a view of the Cascade Range can actually be seen from a dormitory room.

— Bill Eddie lives in Bend.