Financing on target for engineering building

State financial support for Portland State’s new engineering facility appears assured to the tune of $26.5 million in state bond commitment.

Last week final legislative approval of the project was temporarily stalled. Democrats in the house of representatives were boycotting legislative sessions. This made it impossible to take final action on Senate Bill 5525.

The democrats returned to work last Saturday, making it likely the bonding would move smoothly through the remainder of the approval process.

The funding marks a new high in state backing for a PSU facility or for any public university facility. George Pernsteiner, PSU vice president of finance and administration, said this is the single largest commitment of state bonds and the single largest project to receive state support in the entire history of the Oregon University System.

Total cost of the project will be $60.3 million, with the remainder to be raised as matching dollars from local, federal and private funds.

The state funding will permit construction of a new structure to the south of, and adjoining, the present complex at 1900 S.W. Fourth Ave.

The university owns most of the existing complex. The city retains ownership of a seven-story tower. The new center will provide a partial answer to the demands of the Oregon high technology industry for a greater number of highly-trained engineers.

The new facility will include 100,000 square feet of laboratories, classrooms and faculty office space. It is designed to become a center of learning and research for both new and experienced engineers. It will provide a regional focus for collaborative programs among PSU, Oregon Health and Science University and other institutions.

The bond issue moved unanimously out of the ways and means education subcommittee in mid-June. It soon cleared the full senate ways and means committee, moving it to consideration by the full senate.

With the democrats back in action at the state capital, legislative approval should move forward promptly, since legislators are looking forward to adjournment. Democrats had deserted the sessions to stall action on the Republican majority’s maneuvering to redraw legislative redistricting lines.

The bond approval has been treated by the university as a done deal for some time. It enjoys strong bipartisan support. Pernsteiner said progress already has been made on raising the matching funds. The city is putting in $5 million and $360,000 in federal funds is in hand, with an expected total commitment of about $1.3 million. Last fall a $7.2 million bond issue on a renovation agreement further reduced the required balance.

Pernsteiner estimated the remaining balance will total about $18.5 million. The general responsibility lies within the portfolio of Gary Withers, who bears the title of vice president for university relations. His position is considered primarily a fund-raising job.

Dick Piekenbrock serves as the university’s staff architect on the project. Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership is the design architectural firm, Pernsteiner said.

PSU President Daniel Bernstine issued a statement of gratitude for legislative support. He said, in part, “This building will enable us to double the number of engineering grads in the disciplines critical to meeting the needs of our high-tech community. It will also allow us to build state-of-the-art labs for the research needed to keep Oregon industries ahead of the curve.”

Robert Dryden, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, also issued a statement of gratitude when the measure cleared the education subcommittee.

“We’re ecstatic about the support shown today by the legislature for the direction we’re taking and the plans we have made for the college. It will assist in our fundraising efforts and in the recruitment of the region’s most talented students and researchers,” the statement said.

The College of Engineering and Computer Science has been housed at 1900 S.W. Fourth Ave. for some time. PSU designates the existing complex as the Fourth Avenue building. Whether the new facility will assume a different name and address is not determined, Pernsteiner said.