Connecting Eugene supports UO President Lariviere’s decision to explore other options for ORI’s riverfront building and parking lot
Connecting Eugene commends University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere on his decision to explore an alternative location for a proposed private office building and parking lot slated to be built along the Willamette River in Eugene.
The University of Oregon announced today (attached below) that the President has recommended an examination of an alternative location for the proposed Oregon Research Institute (ORI) building. The building is currently slated to be constructed under a 1989 Master Plan at the western end of the University’s riverfront open space, just upstream from the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) property. The plan, if completed, would transform the University’s 67-acre riverfront open space into a private office complex.
Members of Connecting Eugene, a community group concerned about public involvement and the appropriate use of the riverfront, believe that the President’s recommendation may be the first step towards a win-win solution to the problems with the proposed project.
UO Graduate student and Connecting Eugene member Paul Cziko is encouraged by the news: “I’m cautiously optimistic, yet delighted that President Lariviere is responding to the concerns of students, faculty, and community members who want to see the ORI project built while protecting the riverfront from inappropriate development”.
The building’s originally-proposed riverfront location has been contested by students, faculty, and community members, including the University Senate and ASUO (student) Senate repeatedly since plans were first unveiled in 2008. The President’s proposal to examine the viability of an alternative construction location for the four-story, 80,000 square foot building and parking lot is likely to be welcomed by most opponents to the riverfront location.
Community members have previously encouraged the university to consider the site at 1700 Millrace Dr., amongst others, as a viable alternative location for the ORI project. Construction at this alternative site would conform to several goals and requirements set forth in the Master Plan, such as creating a high-density clustered development that fosters a thriving research community. Construction at the riverfront site, nearly a quarter of a mile from existing research park buildings, would not satisfy these conditions.
In February, the City of Eugene issued a permit to begin construction of a 200-car parking lot as the first phase of the riverfront development. The issuance of the building permit is currently under appeal to the Land Use Board of Appeals by Connecting Eugene.
Choosing to leave the riverfront site undeveloped under the aging 1989 master plan would allow for renewed citizen involvement in the fate and use of these publicly-owned lands after the plan expires in 2012. Students are already engaged in this process; the Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO) recently authorized over $56,000 for educational events and opportunities for public involvement related to the riverfront. These funds will help the University determine the best practices for protecting the sensitive ecological zone next to the river while allowing for appropriate development in areas that will provide benefits to the university and the wider community.
UO Alumnus and Connecting Eugene member Allen Hancock says: “Connecting Eugene welcomes any move that would expedite construction of the ORI building in a location away from the riverfront. The site on Millrace Drive is an appropriate and responsible location for ORI’s building.”
UO Press Release Below
UO president recommends examination of 1700 Millrace Drive site for new Riverfront Research Park building
EUGENE, Ore. — (May 2, 2011) — University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere announced today that he has asked developer Trammell Crow Company to examine a second parcel in the Riverfront Research Park as a possible location for the proposed Oregon Research Institute (ORI) and Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC) building.
Under Lariviere’s recommendation, the parties involved in the development would continue planning for the existing site at 855 Riverfront Parkway while simultaneously examining the feasibility of moving the ORI/EPIC project to the 1700 Millrace Drive location.
The 1700 Millrace Drive site is available because of a recent decision made by University of Oregon leadership to temporarily forego construction of an additional building within the park until after a new comprehensive master plan for the Riverfront Research Park has been completed. Initial UO plans had called for developing a new building for ORI and EPIC on the site at 855 Riverfront Parkway, a former EWEB pole yard north of the railroad tracks, in addition to another multi-tenant research building on the vacant parcel at 1700 Millrace Drive south of the railroad tracks.
“The decision to postpone development of another new building within the research park allows us to re-examine the best location for the ORI/EPIC building,” Lariviere said. “By exploring the feasibility of the 1700 Millrace Drive site, I am confident that we will arrive at the best possible outcome for everyone involved,” he said.
“The UO remains committed to assuring that Trammell Crow, ORI and EPIC can develop an outstanding research facility,” said Rich Linton, vice president for research and graduate studies at the UO. “If the 1700 Millrace site proves feasible, it will provide a desirable location for housing major research programs at ORI and EPIC that support hundreds of jobs in this community,” he said.
“Beyond this project, the university will launch a master planning process to help address future facilities needs for UO’s expanding role in catalyzing innovation and its ties to economic development,” Linton added.
For the past two years, Trammell Crow Company has been working to redevelop a former brownfield site near the Eugene Water and Electric Board facility, adjacent to the Willamette River and north of the railroad tracks. The 80,000-square-foot LEED Gold building planned for the parcel would house the Oregon Research Institute and the Educational Policy Improvement Center. The site and building have been designed and the City of Eugene has issued a Phase I building permit for the project.
“The primary concern for the Trammell Crow Company is to construct a high-quality, energy-efficient facility that meets the needs of ORI and EPIC and enhances Eugene’s built environment. While we remain fully committed to moving forward at the former EWEB pole yard, we are willing to simultaneously explore the feasibility of the Millrace Drive site,” said Trammell Crow representative Steve Wells.
“We look forward to working with Trammell Crow and the university as they determine the feasibility of the new site,” said Cynthia Guinn, executive director at Oregon Research Institute.
About the University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of “Very High Research Activity” in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.