$100 million in construction to begin at PSU

Following state legislative authorization of $100,295,000 in capital improvements for the current biennium, Portland State is plunging into planning for a variety of major building and improvement projects.


“These are very exciting years for Portland State,” said Robyn Pierce, interim director of facilities and planning. “We received a significant amount of money authorized by the legislature. Every contractor and architect in town has been calling us.”


The largest authorization is $42 million for a student recreation center on the site of the present PCAT building. This project also will create space for the Graduate School of Social Work, currently housed in the upper floors of the University Center Building.


The sum of almost $13.7 million is approved for the seismic upgrade and extensive renovation of Shattuck Hall. A total of $30 million is authorized for 110 new parking spaces on campus, $5 million for retail development in various locations and $1.5 million for Smith Center renovation.


The Shattuck project comes under a deferred maintenance item in the authorization. This also includes an improvement and extension of the underground heating and cooling loop that will eventually extend from Cramer to Shattuck to Stott Center, Millar Library, Extended Studies and back to Cramer.


Funding will come from a combination of bonds, fee revenues, donations, energy loans and some general fund appropriation, Pierce said.


“We’re already doing in-house planning and developing requests for proposal on the loop and Shattuck project,” Pierce said. “By December we expect to have the requests for proposals out and begin reviewing applications.”


The most expensive project is the Rec Center, academic building, dubbed the PCAT project because it involves removing the existing PCAT building. The authorized $42 million will not cover the entire project. Some of the $30 million parking money will go into two basement floors. The building will also include retail space, for which some of the retail allocation would be available.


An earlier projection of a timeline for the Rec Center showed completion of pre-planning by September 2006, construction documents and bidding by September 2007, and construction and dedication by September 2009.


However, Pierce said, “We would like to have the project finished when the city’s downtown mall project is finished in 2008. That would mean August or September 2008.” The City of Portland is planning to extend the light rail line through what is now called the transit mall by that date.


The original cost of the total PCAT project was estimated at $57 million. This would have included $32 million for the basic facility construction, $5 million for retail and $20 million additional bonding for the Graduate School of Social Work. The most current total estimate is $60 million to $80 million, Pierce said.


The university will need to build two new transit shelters on the Southwest Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue sides of the new building. Those two stops are reputedly the busiest transit stops of the entire Tri-Met system. The new shelters may be built into the general design of the building, Pierce said.


Much of the Smith Center allocation is expected to go into the extensive renovation of the third floor ballroom. The legislature also allocated two “placeholder” sums of $1 each for two projects. One is the university’s plan to buy the tower owned by the city atop the present Fourth Avenue building. The tower has recently been in the news because city bureaus have been moving out of it, complaining the rents are too high.


The other is an eventual redevelopment of University Place, a location originally eyed for eventual student housing when the university first acquired it. PSU will seek funding partners for that, Pierce said, possibly by the PSU Foundation, which owns Broadway Housing.


Shattuck Hall has been a front burner project for some time. Mike Irish, assistant director of facilities and planning, said last July, “Basically we’re going to take the building apart and put it back together, without losing its architectural integrity.” At the same time, Cathy Dyck, interim vice president for finance and administration, called Shattuck a worthy building from an architectural and aesthetic standpoint, but “an energy grabber.” The renovated energy loop should remedy that. Pierce said there will be 10 new classrooms in the reconstructed building.


The university’s hunger for expansion is far from being sated. A new campus map titled “University District Vision 2010,” shows buildings for future classrooms, a future technology center, housing in various locations, a grade school, a future commercial building and future mixed use buildings.


The Northwest Center for Engineering, Science and Technology, sometimes erroneously called the Maseeh building, is nearing completion. The center will house the Maseeh College of Engineering, Science and Technology.