PSU looks for feedback on University Place Hotel

With a new light rail station coming to Southwest Fourth Avenue and Lincoln Street in September 2015, future redevelopment plans for the site of the Portland State-owned University Place Hotel are currently being considered.

The Lincoln light rail station will be part of the light rail extension connecting Portland to Milwaukie, and will give PSU students quicker and easier access to the South Waterfront and the Oregon University System and Oregon Health & Science University Collaborative Life Sciences Building.

Because of the increase in student traffic around the almost four acres that the University Place Hotel encompasses, PSU has teamed up with TriMet to develop this area.

“I think it would be great if this project could go to help support the South of Market EcoDistrict, which this school is a part of,” said Synkai Harrison, a graduate student of real estate development at PSU. “I think if they had more market-rate housing, [they] would have more activity in the area other than students, which is only going to add to the vibrancy.”

Feedback on the development was collected at an open house held at the hotel on January 23, during which the public was presented with potential redevelopment plans for the hotel and surrounding areas. On April 23, another open house was hosted at University Place to discuss three revised plans that could potentially become a reality for SoMa.

The preliminary redevelopment plans included a residential model, an academic PSU-focused model, and a hybrid model that mixed both academic and residential needs. The hybrid model was the most appealing to the community during the initial round of feedback, and it served as a building block for the three revised redevelopment options, said James McGrath, architect and urban designer for CH2M Hill.

“[The new light rail station and hotel development] means more opportunity and more choice,” McGrath said. “It just sort of completes the neighborhood. This station, and any redevelopment that we see here could just really make this much more of a place, and tie it into the fabric of the university.”

The three plans

All three redevelopment models include use of the hotel, said Jerry Johnson, principal at Johnson Economics, one of the consulting teams working on this project.

University Place, built in the mid-1960s, is “a very large hotel, and a very suburban sort of structure,” Johnson said. “There’s interest in maintaining a hotel use, but it would probably be configured differently—something a little more urban that made more sense in this context.”

The first of the three revised plans, the Academic Village, according to the redevelopment scenario guide on PSU’s Campus Planning & Sustainability webpage, would be a mix of residential, academic and hotel use.

The second plan, Southern Exposure, would include residential, hotel and office use. LiveWork, the third proposed plan, includes a mix of residential, flex-office and hotel use. All three plans propose large underground parking levels that can be accessed on Lincoln Street, as well as retail space and market-rate housing.

The redevelopment of University Place Hotel has a potentially greater effect on those living in the residences adjacent to the site than it does on students who are more removed from the area.

“It’s hard to make decisions on something like this when it’s not your field, exactly, and all you’re doing is reacting emotionally. We need improvements, I suspect, but is this the right way?” asked Nancy Rangila, a resident of the American Plaza Towers, high–rise condominiums located off of Southwest First Avenue. “I think they’re trying, obviously by…asking us what we think.”

Another resident of the American Plaza Towers, Joanne Jene, who has lived in the area for roughly 20 years, expressed the need for a grocery store in the SoMa EcoDistrict, which she said would be best satisfied by the Academic Village scenario.

“It will be very painful going through the construction [and] demolition. But I think in the long run, it’ll be very positive for the community,” Jene said. “The main goal is to create the most vibrant, interesting, and community and academically oriented development as possible,” said David Horsley, principal at DAO Architecture.

When asked about a possible timeline for the development, Horsley said that it likely won’t begin for at least the next couple of years.

“There’s no set statement about where the money will come from, what the design will be and what will result,” Horsley said.

To view the redevelopment proposals and provide feedback, visit The last chance to submit feedback is April 30.