Rec Center on PCAT

Some time in this decade, Portland State University President Daniel Bernstine will be sharing a building with sweaty students working out in the new student recreation center.

That’s the current scenario for the new structure, slated to be built on the present site of the Portland Center for Advanced Technology at 1800 S.W. Sixth Ave. Present plans call for student money to pay for the recreation portion of the proposed center, while the administration will pay for moving most administrative offices there, including that of the university president.

Christy Harper, ASPSU president and longtime advocate for the student rec center, affirmed her approval of the PCAT site.

"It puts it in a more central place on the campus," Harper said. "It’s the most high-traffic area on campus and has great visibility."

When students voted on the center last spring, the preferred site had been east of the Helen Gordon Center on Southwest 12th Avenue. About three months ago, the administration suggested the PCAT site and student leaders bought into it. In Harper’s view there was no implication that the 12th Avenue site was set in stone.

OPSIS architectural consulting firm of Portland won the preliminary study contract over two other applicants. Mike Irish, director of facilities, said OPSIS would conduct an economic feasibility study for the PCAT site.

"They will study what we have to do on that site, the best way to do it," he said.

The OPSIS study is expected to be complete by February. The next step will be requests for proposals to do the actual construction. As to when construction will begin, the university needs budget approval from the next state legislature.

The OPSIS proposal outlines the scope of the preliminary work. The building is visualized at about seven stories.

"We don’t want to go higher than the Urban Center buildings," Irish said. There would be about 130,000 square feet of student recreation center and 40.000 square feet of underground parking. A commercial tenant would occupy about 15,000 square feet of ground floor space. This tenant would probably be a brewpub, restaurant or other high occupancy tenant.

Another tenant, possibly the U.S. Geological Survey, would occupy 40,000 square feet. The university administrative offices would include the president, the provost, the office of finance and administration, and other offices to be designated.

"Parking pays for itself," Irish said. "Retail pays for the street-level floor. "The government tenant will take an entire floor. The administrative offices will be state money."

The former 12th Avenue site plan showed housing on top of the rec center portion. However, according to Robyn Pierce, associate director of facilities, restrictions by the Portland Development Commission require that any new housing at this time be located at the University Place property at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Lincoln Street.

The administrative offices in the new building will likely go on top of the rec center.

"It doesn’t make sense to put the administrative offices below the rec center," Pierce said.

Both Irish and Pierce pointed out that the new building will complete the Urban Plaza concept. They both feel the plaza is currently considered incomplete on its south side. Pierce also explained that the new building will have a stepped-down series of elevations, so it does not throw Sixth Avenue into shadow.

Alex Acetta, coordinator and adviser for campus recreation, said he and Harper were approached by the administration to discuss the proposed change of location to the PCAT site from the 12th Avenue site and they approved. Some students objected to the 12th Avenue site on environmental grounds. The location has some old trees and also would require moving the Honors College building and tearing down another unused building.

Acetta said there will be an oversight committee including students to follow the project all the way. The committee currently includes Acetta, Christy Harper, Tirsa Forncock, a dancer, and Celyn Brown, a disability advocacy representative. More students may be added.

The administration will be represented by Irish or Pierce, Cathy Dyck, interim vice president for finance and administration, Ernest Tipton, campus design and planning manager, and Cassie McVeety, vice president for university relations.