Bringing down the house

Amid a foggy mid-morning backdrop, key members of Portland State’s faculty and student body met with community leaders in the Urban Center Plaza to swing sledgehammers and congratulate one another as they commenced the demolition of the Portland Center for Advanced Technology building.

Amid a foggy mid-morning backdrop, key members of Portland State’s faculty and student body met with community leaders in the Urban Center Plaza to swing sledgehammers and congratulate one another as they commenced the demolition of the Portland Center for Advanced Technology building. The building will be replaced with a new mixed-use building, called the Academic and Student Recreational Center. The building will house a student rec center, including classrooms, an auditorium, the city of Portland archives and the Oregon University System (OUS) chancellor’s office. It will also house retail space that will include a third-party restaurant. The new 180,300-square-foot facility, being constructed by Skanska USA Building Inc., will stand six stories high. It will be opened during the fall of 2009 and is expected to meet Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards, a nationwide system that ranks the environmental friendliness of buildings and structures. PSU’s School of Social Work, currently the only Oregon school offering a master’s program in social work, will occupy the entire sixth floor, according to Cassie McVeety, PSU vice president of university relations. Six additional classrooms for miscellaneous use will be located on the second floor, according to project manager Ernest Tipton. Lindsay Desrochers, PSU vice president of finance and administration, kicked off the demolition event, speaking on behalf of PSU alongside interim president Michael Reardon and Rudy Soto, president of Associated Students of Portland State University. “We’re saying goodbye to old memories and welcoming new ones with this project,” Soto said. City Commissioner Randy Leonard and OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner also spoke to a crowd of about 150 outside of the Portland Center for Advanced Technology (PCAT) building. Each speaker took time to thank one another, and other prominent members of the audience, for their involvement in the project. PSU administrators and students at the event expressed gratitude for city and state funding, saying that the new facility will be a great addition to PSU’s campus. The total cost of the project is $71 million. Close to half of that money, $35 million, comes from Article XI-F bonds, the equivalent of state subsidized loans. The state fronts the money for the construction of the building, then students will pay back the $35 million through student fees when the building is complete. The amount of student fees allocated to campus recreation is currently about $15 per student per term, according to Alex Accetta, director of campus recreation. Accetta said that the recreation fee will rise to at least $42 per term in fall 2009–when the new rec center will open to students-and could be as much as $70 per term, depending on enrollment for that term. “It’s hard to estimate these numbers due to enrollment fluctuation,” Accetta said. “But the facility will be great and worth the fee.” Mark Gregory, PSU associate vice president for strategic planning, said that the student body passed a decision to introduce an increased fee for the new rec center in 2005. Students will not have to pay an increased recreation fee until the center is opened, and that students who use the rec center will not have to pay membership fees, he said. The rec center is designed to offer 19,300 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, similar to the Broadway Housing Building. The lease and rental fees for retail stores will cover $7 million of the project budget. The Portland Development Commission contributed $2 million to the project budget and donated a portion of the property that the new facility is being built on. Jay Kenton, vice chancellor of finance and administration for OUS, said that the commission had a 20 to 30 percent interest in the property upon the donation. PSU contributed $3 million for classroom space to be built and OUS contributed $3 million for the construction of the chancellor’s office. The city of Portland contributed $10 million for the construction and lease of archive space, and state bonds matched the $10 million spent by the city. The PCAT building, located at 1800 S.W. Sixth Avenue, was first constructed in 1962 for Blue Cross of Oregon and was known as the Water Resources building. The building was acquired by Portland State in 1983, when PSU’s student population was roughly 14,000, according to Desrochers. The PCAT building had an original capacity of 800 students and was used primarily for engineering and university studies classes, Desrochers said. She said the new, much larger facility will serve thousands of students at a time. “After all the work that has gone into this project, I have to say that I feel like a proud mother watching it come to fruition,” Desrochers said. The city of Portland purchased archive space to store years of records and files that detail works and projects from across the city. The archive space will occupy half of the fifth floor and some of the basement, according to Tipton. Commissioner Leonard said that he contacted PSU about including the city’s archives in the new facility 10 months ago. He said that the idea to relocate the current archive center, located at 9360 N. Columbia Blvd., to PSU came after city auditor Gary Blackmer read an article in the Vanguard covering the forthcoming rec center. “After I read the article, I called [former PSU president Daniel] Bernstine and we started putting together our ideas for the relocation,” Blackmer said. “Then Desrochers was brought in and we got to work.” Leonard said that the demolition of the PCAT building and rec center construction is the second phase of a plan to revitalize the Urban Center Plaza, the first being the construction of the College of Urban and Public Affairs in 1998. The new rec center will serve as both a social and administrative hub for campus activity, Leonard said. Sophomore Rachel Sticka, 19, said that she hadn’t heard about the forthcoming rec center until this week. She said that she doesn’t visit PSU’s current rec center, the Peter Stott Center, very often, but that she will likely visit the new facility more frequently. “I like the sound of this new place,” Sticka said. “There should be a lot of neat things going on for class, and it’ll be good to have a new place to just meet up and hang out with my friends on campus.”