Looking to the future

When students return to Portland State at the end of summer,they will find some changes on campus that took place over thethree months of vacation, but many of the university’s currentundertakings are still a few years off on the horizon.

“In summary, this is mostly a year of anticipation,” Mike Irish,director of facilities, said. Jay Kenton, soon to depart as vicepresident for finance and administration, had presented 14 capitalimprovement projects to the State Board of Higher Education in May.Many of these depend on funding yet to be approved by the nextstate legislature, which doesn’t begin its next session untilJanuary 2005. First they will be subject to approval or disapprovalby the State Board of Higher Education.

“We might know by fall if the board approves our capitalbudget,” Irish said. As to when the legislature will get around toacting on it, nobody can predict.

There will be some noticeable changes on the campus. TheBroadway student housing structure will open for the first time.The Ondine will have a new cafeteria with sit down food serviceprovided by Aramark. This is a revival of a former service. TheOndine formerly had a kitchen; it will be fitted with a new kitchenand food service on the ground floor.

“Hopefully, the Ondine will be painted this summer,” Irish said.This would amount to an exterior facelift. The colors have not yetbeen announced except that they will include a mixture.

July will see a groundbreaking ceremony for the new engineeringbuilding adjacent to the Fourth Avenue Building. Work has alreadybegun on the site, with phase 1 about completed, Irish said.Construction of the building will begin in July. The project hadbeen delayed for some time but completion is now set for December2005.

“It took a little time to get all the funding together andworkable,” Irish said. An $8 million donation put spurs to thetask.

After two years of construction that Irish termed “verydisruptive,” the renovation of Smith Memorial Student Union willreach completion. The seismic upgrade is about finished.

There will be a new bowling alley in the SMSU basement. It isthe same size as the old lanes but will be in a different formatknown as Glo-Bowl.

“By the next school year we will know if the recreation centeris going to move forward,” Irish said. The rec center, withattached housing, was narrowly approved in a student vote thisspring.

It is still being opposed by some factions, with one contentionbeing that some 100 year old trees will be displaced. ChristyHarper, ASPSU president and long-time rec center advocate, deniesthat any such venerable trees will disappear. If the project movesforward, it faces at least 12 to 15 months of design work, Irishsaid.

By fall, Irish said, PSU will know if it will be able to buy theCity Tower atop the Fourth Avenue Building. The tower is currentlyowned by the city and would be paid for mainly by leasing it backto the city.

The second year of the Oregon biennial budget tends to become ayear of waiting, with the legislature largely operating through theemergency board. 2003 saw a number of major improvements in thecampus scene: Epler Residential Hall opened. Major renovationschanged the look of the SMSU interior. The Native American StudentsCommunity Center opened.

The Center for Student Health and Counseling and PsychologicalServices moved to occupy part of the University Center Building,the former site of the PSU Bookstore. The university bought theformer Doubletree hotel property, now renamed University Place. Anew section of the Helen Gordon Child Development Center wascompleted. Still to be finished shortly after the next school yearbegins is a code upgrade to the center. It requires work that “isnot cosmetic, not what people see,” Irish said.

The university would like to start new construction on theDoubletree site by July 2005, Irish said, but it depends on thewheels of state government.

“Next you find out what capital budget is given to you,” Irishsaid. “We’re hopeful, because education is one of the governor’spriorities.”

Among the 14 potential projects subject to the board ofeducation, a number still have unsettled futures. One is a proposednew building to be jointly used by PSU and one of the communitycolleges in a partnership program. Another is the redevelopment ofthe PCAT building. A new parking facility with retail is athird.

Irish said the departure of Kenton, to the University of Idahoat the end of June, would have an effect on new campusdevelopment.

“Our forward pace will slow considerably while we search for JayKenton’s replacement,” Irish predicted. “The pace won’t stop. CathyDyck (the interim replacement for Kenton) is very good at what shedoes, but Jay was one of a kind. Totally above board, totallyhonest. He worked a good deal but it was always honest.”

Irish was upbeat about future campus development.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “The economy is starting to lookbetter. I think that will benefit everybody, including highereducation.”