Application for Over-Realized Funds 2010-11
Project Title: University of Oregon Community-Supported Riverfront Redesign
Proposal Summary: A request of $100,000 to implement the first two parts of a three-part plan for engaging the campus community in a contemporary and ecologically sensitive design for University land next to the Willamette River.
- – Protect riverfront from becoming a private office complex not for student use.
- – Media exposure to raise awareness around issues related to riverfront options.
- – Approximately 100-200 students actively engaged in coursework and research related to the state of the riverfront, best-practices, and cutting-edge design.
- – A prominent planning/architectural firm hired to support students in engaging the campus community throughout a robust riverfront re-visioning process.
- – Numerous opportunities for public input through community forums, workshops, interactive website and online polling, interviews, and design charrettes.
- – A preliminary design, based on community input, that will provide the framework for a detailed, updated, master plan.
- 1. Our Proposal
- 2. Project Outline
- 3. Background and Current Outlook
- 4. Benefit to the University – Critical Needs to be Addressed
- 5. Current Progress and Past Accomplishments
- 6. Over-Realized Funds Use Requirement
- 7. Budget and Justification
- 8. Conclusion
Primary Student Applicant
Paul A. Cziko – Ph.D. candidate in Biology at UO
On behalf of Connecting Eugene (student, faculty, and community riverfront advocacy group)
ASUO group Affiliation
Members of Connecting Eugene are affiliated with the ASUO-recognized Graduate Evolutionary Biology and Ecology Students (GrEBES), and the Ecological Design Center. Paul Cziko is the President of GrEBES.
About the Applicant
In early 2009 UO landscape architecture students saw an opportunity to connect the university to both downtown and the river by transforming the university’s riverfront into a thriving public place. Unfortunately, they soon discovered that–without any student input–the university had made arrangements to construct a suburban-style office building and parking lot for a private organization on a key parcel of land. Based on a master plan for the riverfront dating back to the mid-1980s, the proposed Oregon Research Institute (ORI) building would be situated in such a way that future options for making this vital connection would be rendered virtually impossible. The group Connecting Eugene emerged to seek a greater vision for our precious riverfront.
In late 2009 I became aware of this issue, and became involved. Because of my interests in biology and design, I had been following the development of public waterfronts around the world as they were transformed from industrial uses of the past to people-oriented places that support thriving communities and healthy environments. I was certain that, like so many other great universities, ours would have similar plans to create a beautiful, public place on the riverfront.
|At Wellesley College, MA, parking lots restricted students access to the waterfront. This parking lot was directly on the waterfront – center of the photo, right.||The waterfront parking lot was transformed into an unparalleled ecologically-sensitive public place through a process initiated by students at the college.|
Like most other students, I knew nothing about what the university was planning for our riverfront. Though much of our university has been planned and developed under the philosophy that people should be involved as stakeholders in the construction of their community, the riverfront was now slated to be developed under a 20-year-old plan with minimal public involvement. I just couldn’t understand why the university was proposing a project that failed to meet the sustainable design standards, that our students are being taught. With a strong-willed group of students and faculty, we set out to change this trajectory.
Along with the students, faculty, and community members that are committed to this project (listed below as additional applicants), the members of Connecting Eugene strongly believe that if we can offer a compelling alternative to the current, controversial plans, the administration will follow our lead.
We, the students, cannot afford to pass up this opportunity.
|The University of Oregon riverfront, between the railroad tracks and the Willamette river, is at stake. The proposed ORI project would preclude other options by converting open space (large parcel farthest to the west/left) into a large parking lot and private office building. (Interactive Map of UO Riverfront)
- Connecting Eugene (Faculty, student, alumni, and community member advocacy group) – Christo Brehm (firstname.lastname@example.org), Paul Cziko (email@example.com), Allen Hancock (firstname.lastname@example.org), Co-directors.
- American Society of Landscape Architects, UO Student Chapter (ASLA, 40 active student members) – Justin Demeter, President – email@example.com
- UO Student Ecological Design Center (EDC, 30 active student members) – Jesse Crupper, Administrative Director – firstname.lastname@example.org
- GrEBES (Graduate Evolutionary Biology and Ecology Students; 15 active student members) Paul Cziko, President – email@example.com
- Prof. Mark Gillem – Faculty, UO Architecture; Principal, The Urban Collaborative – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Prof. Ron Lovinger – Faculty, UO Landscape Architecture – email@example.com
- Prof. Bart Johnson - Faculty, UO Landscape Architecture and Ecology; Ecological and Hydrological consultant – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Prof. Bitty Roy – UO Faculty, Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology – email@example.com
1. Our Proposal (top)
We propose to initiate a process of creating a new vision for the University of Oregon riverfront property on the south bank of the Willamette River. Through advocacy, research, and visioning, we will empower students to develop a better alternative to the outdated plan for the university riverfront. We want to bring the fate of this university resource back into the hands of the students in order to benefit the broader university community and contribute to the fundamental mission of the University.
With the requested funds, we aim to initiate the process of transforming the riverfront into an unparallelled local landmark that epitomizes the values of our students and community, exemplifies the strengths and unique qualities of our university, and better serves our academic mission and stewardship responsibilities.
2. Project Outline (top)
An inclusive riverfront redesign is a big project that requires significant community involvement, resources, time and effort. The project is composed of three inter-related parts, described below.
A. Education and Advocacy- A New Direction. We will educate and advocate that a greater vision is possible for our riverfront.
With events and presentations facilitated by experts in urban riverfront design, we will provide an opportunity for the public to learn about current design and environmental standards and the guidelines that other communities are employing for similar projects. We will raise public interest, foster excitement about the UO riverfront, and inspire student and faculty participation. This process will create educational opportunities for students in public policy-related fields (public involvement), art and design (imagery), and journalism (documenting the process).
Since construction of the proposed ORI building and parking lot would permanently foreclose on many options for the future of our riverfront, we will advocate for a change in the current trajectory before new projects are constructed on the riverfront. Through the appropriate legal review processes, we will challenge the currently-proposed riverfront ORI building. This project does not meet land-use and public participation requirements, is inconsistent with the approved 1989 Master Plan, and violates the Research Park’s Conditional Use Permit.
B. Research and Vision – The cutting edge. We will initiate and complete a community-inclusive research and visioning process for our riverfront.
Data does not currently exist regarding the state of the site, nor do we know the current best practices for stewardship of the riverfront. With the support of faculty, campus planning, and outside consultants, students in ASLA, GrEBES, and the EDC will gather the necessary data to make informed decisions regarding the use and development of this land. Data regarding the history and cultural resources, hydrology, ecology, public use patterns, and the needs of stakeholders will be collected and compiled, providing opportunities for coursework and independent research. Campus Planning or an independent consultant will collect and publish the information for use in subsequent parts of the project.
Finally, we will execute an inclusive visioning process for the riverfront that will result in a set of development guidelines and preliminary site plan that will maximize the site’s potential. A landscape architecture and planning firm with experience in waterfront design and public involvement will be hired to lend their professional expertise to the visioning process organized and executed primarily by students. Throughout the process, public engagement in the form of online polls, group and individual interviews, site tours, broad public visioning, and focused design charettes will inform the creation of a vision for the riverfront that best meets the needs of the university community.
The process will culminate in the creation of a preliminary site design and a set of guidelines that will provide a framework for future riverfront projects, and allow the creation of a detailed design that will ultimately be implemented.
C. Design, Implementation, and Celebration. We will set the stage to create and celebrate a riverfront that epitomizes who we are as a community.
Though we request funds only for parts A and B, we expect that the final vision that emerges from the community-inclusive design process will ultimately be implemented by the university. At the completion of part B, current information related to the ecology, hydrology, geology, and stakeholder needs will be available to complement the vision developed through the community-inclusive process. These guidelines will allow the university to create a riverfront that best meets the diverse needs of our students, satisfies sustainable design standards, and preserves the ecological function of the Willamette River.
The completion of this project will be marked by a celebration of our community’s shared success and our lasting contribution to the landscape, the community, and the university.
3. Background and Current Outlook (top)
In the mid-1980s the University of Oregon developed a plan to turn public open space and recreational land next to the Willamette River into a private research complex. With a business model that uses scarce university resources to subsidize private development along the riverfront, students and faculty overwhelmingly opposed the Riverfront Research Park project. In the late 1980s, students and faculty members fought this proposal with legal challenges and a city-wide ballot measure in order to bring the proposal back to the table. This was followed, in 1989, by a UO student ballot initiative that encouraged the administration to set aside the riverfront property north of the railroad tracks as a greenway for student use.
Despite the legal challenges, the plan for the Riverfront Research Park was ultimately approved by the City in 1989 through the issuance of a 20-year Conditional Use Permit. The approved Master Plan allowed for construction of 12 private office buildings and 7 parking structures to be built in the open space between Franklin Boulevard and the Willamette River. Over the past 22 years, two buildings were built away from the river, south of the railroad tracks, before the project stalled. Students and community members rejoiced as it seemed like the controversial plan would expire before significant development occurred along the riverfront.
|The current Master Plan for the riverfront, developed and approved in the 1980s, proposes 7 buildings and 3 large parking garages directly on the riverfront. After 22 years, none of these have been constructed.|
However, in 2008, after ten years without progress, the university unveiled a new proposal to construct the first office building and large surface parking lot directly on the riverfront. This building and large parking lot for the Oregon Research Institute (ORI) would be owned and used by private entities, and would not be available for student use. Despite the archaic design principles and the general failure of the project, the university then applied for and received a three-year extension to the Conditional Use Permit. The permit will now expire in 2012 without the possibility of additional extensions, and no plans have been made for the riverfront beyond that date.
Unfortunately, the proposed ORI project stands in the way of sustainable and community-supported development along the riverfront and is inconsistent with the current values and goals of the university community. If constructed as proposed, the ORI project would severely limit the options for the riverfront, and would stand in stark contrast to adjacent, mixed-use, and sustainable redevelopment projects occurring at EWEB just downstream. Fortunately, a significant amount of land in the Research Park remains undeveloped, away from the river south of the railroad tracks. This undeveloped land could accommodate additional research park buildings, including the proposed ORI building.
With the expiration of the conditional use permit in 2012, a new master plan will have to be developed and implemented regardless of whether the ORI project is constructed. By initiating the process now, before the expiration of the 1989 permit, we can help make sure students have a say in determining the future outcome of the entire, or the remaining riverfront land.
4. Benefit to the University – Critical Needs to be Addressed (top)
The results of this project would immensely benefit the students of the University and the wider Eugene and Springfield communities for generations to come. A successful outcome of this process would strengthen community ties, provide needed access to the river, maintain civic space in the core of the city, restore degraded wildlife habitat, and attract students and faculty in the future.
A. Strengthening Community Ties
In the 1970s the UO embarked on a mission to bring people together as stakeholders to help plan their university. This approach, termed The Oregon Experiment, was widely-acclaimed nationwide as a groundbreaking and successful method of design. The university’s existing riverfront plan, however, has been a divisive issue within our community for more than twenty years. The contentious 1989 plan has damaged community relations by repeatedly pitting the university administration against the students, faculty, staff, and wider community.
This proposed riverfront redesign project, however, would be a high-profile public process to turn the riverfront into a community asset that would strengthen our community and remain as an emblem of those ties for generations to come. With this project we will strive to bring our university community back together, strengthen ties to those outside of the university, and provide a lasting physical connection between the university, the river, and the City of Eugene.
By funding this project, the ASUO has an opportunity to not only relieve community tensions in the short term, but also to leave a legacy for the future.
B. Transportation and Connectivity
The UO Bookstore is only six blocks from the Willamette River–one of our city’s most treasured assets. But getting there by foot, bicycle, or wheelchair is dangerous and difficult. The city has plans to create a connection from Alder St. to the river, but the proposed riverfront building will make that virtually impossible, making it difficult to get to the river, the bike path, and the restaurants, shops, and public plaza that will be built on EWEB property just downstream. A primary goal of our advocacy efforts and visioning process is to make the riverfront easily accessible to students.
C. University Recognition and Quality of Life
The undeveloped land next to the Willamette River provides a unique opportunity for the university to showcase its environmental leadership, expertise in sustainable design, and the high quality of life of the university community.This opportunity is threatened, however, by the outdated plan for a riverfront project that is inconsistent with our community’s values and our university’s ideals.
By preserving special places in the core of the urban environment, the university will continue to attract top-notch students and faculty to the university. Indeed, one faculty member testifying at the November 2010 University Senate meeting indicated that having wonderful natural and public spaces on campus helped compensate for the lower-than-average salaries that faculty at UO receive.
D. Sustainability and Remediation
This project will enable us to reclaim damaged habitat, remediate polluted soils, and reaffirm our commitment to becoming responsible stewards of the environment and the Willamette River. The proposed project does not specifically exclude the possibility of construction of university buildings and infrastructure on the riverfront site. However, with a better understanding of current best practices in design, such development could be carefully integrated into the landscape to minimize impacts on the site’s natural amenities.
5. Current Progress and Past Accomplishments (top)
Connecting Eugene has been working on this project for nearly two years, and has built a broad base of community and student support, generous donors, and credibility within the Eugene and university communities. These assets have allowed Connecting Eugene to maintain a prominent role in advocating for a greater vision for our riverfront.
A. Community Support
The proposed project has wide student support and will include students at every stage of the process. Several student groups (listed above) have already committed to being involved in the project and are co-applicants. By it’s very nature, this project will include the entire university community.
We have worked closely with the three ASUO executive administrations (under Presidents Dotters-Katz, Kallaway, and Rousseau); all have strongly supported our efforts to include students in the discussion. Additionally, we have worked under the guidance of faculty and student senators at the university and since 2010 the ASUO Senate and the UO Senate have each passed two resolutions in support of Connecting Eugene.
Perhaps most importantly, President Lariviere has publicly stated that he would support an inclusive redesign process for the riverfront should the students take the initiative to spearhead the process.
B. Fundraising and Finances
Over the past two years Connecting Eugene has been successful in raising over $20,000 in donations from concerned community and university donors. These funds have been used for advocacy, public relations, events and advertising, a website, and legal fees. Additionally, countless students, faculty, and community members have donated untold hours to these efforts. Connecting Eugene has worked closely with the ASUO, faculty in the fields of design, and students in Biology, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, English, Public Policy and Planning, and Law – and yet no ASUO funds have been used to date.
We have worked with a large base of student, faculty, and community members, some of whom fought tirelessly in the 1980s and 1990s to engage the community in dialogue to create a shared vision for the riverfront. Many of these people have offered to contribute money to keep this possibility alive and to ultimately implement our shared vision.
Connecting Eugene is sponsored by Friends of Eugene, an established, registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advocates for protecting the public interest in local public policy, transportation, and land-use decisions. Friends of Eugene acts as the fiscal sponsor and manages donations to Connecting Eugene’s advocacy-related expenses.
Over the past two years, Connecting Eugene has developed into a respected student and faculty organization. For example, at the outset of the land-use phase of the EWEB public redesign project (just downstream from the UO) EWEB, Connecting Eugene was the first community group EWEB project managers consulted with on how best to move this project forward with community support.
D. Current Progress and Status
Redesigning the riverfront has been a recurring theme in the landscape architecture design studios at UO and in discussions campus-wide. Additionally, the riverfront will be this year’s theme for an intense 24-hour design charrette hosted annually by the student ASLA chapter.
Connecting Eugene brought a legal challenge to the extension of the 20-year old conditional use permit for the entire 67-acre research park in 2009-10. Through this process, Connecting Eugene members gained considerable knowledge of the legal avenues available to protect the student interest, and is now well-positioned to do just that.
After a thorough review of the documents that govern development in the research park, Connecting Eugene found several problems that raise questions about the legality of the proposed ORI project. As proposed, this riverfront project fails to meet land-use and public participation requirements, is inconsistent with the approved 1989 Master Plan, and thereby violates the Conditional Use Permit. Connecting Eugene, working with prominent land-use attorney Anne C. Davies, will be challenging the building permits for the riverfront ORI building via the appropriate legal review procedures at the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).
While we oppose construction on the riverfront under the 1989 plan, we continue to promote construction on vacant parcels south of the railroad tracks as viable, non-controversial alternatives while a new master plan for the riverfront parcels is developed through a community-inclusive process.
Regardless of the outcome of the legal proceedings, we believe that involving students in the planning process now is essential for the long-term success of the university’s riverfront development plan.
|Vacant parcels exist south of the railroad tracks and could accommodate the ORI building without compromising a community-supported redesign of the university riverfront north of the tracks.|
6. Over-Realized Funds Use Requirements (top)
The over-realized funds have specific requirements. This project proposed herein meets these requirements. Each requirement is addressed throughout this application and in the section below.
A. One-time, Non-Recurring Expense
The funds requested in for this project will provide students the opportunity to have a meaningful voice in the future of their university while contributing to the educational mission of the university. No other university funds exist to support this project. A one-time contribution from the ASUO would provide the incentive and momentum needed to encourage major donors and community volunteers to become involved and contribute to the project.
B. Supported by and Benefits Students
This project will benefit the entire university student community by increasing the connections between the campus and the riverfront–making this precious place more accessible to all. Students will participate in the research and design phases of this project, creating a unique, hands-on collaborative learning experience. The project will ultimately extend campus towards the river to provide opportunities that are hard to find in other parts of campus — such as solitude and relaxation, recreation, connection with nature, and education about natural processes and the current state of ecological design.
This proposal has the official support of four student groups, four professors, and countless others throughout the wider university community. Additionally, our efforts have been endorsed by the ASUO Senate and Executive, and the UO Senate. Our past accomplishments speak to the broad base of student support that this proposal has earned.
C. Emergency Need
With the expiration of the 1989 Conditional Use Permit in 2012, it’s critical for students to begin planning the future of the riverfront now. The opportunity is before us to develop a community-supported design for the University’s greatest natural asset. By supporting this project now, the students have an opportunity to move along a path that will reflect who we are and what we value for generations to come.
If the student body and concerned citizens fail to act, the university will develop infrastructure (roads, sewer, water, electricity) and construct on a critical parcel under the outdated plan. Then, the university may use this as justification for additional construction along the riverfront in the future without meaningful community input.
Funds for advocacy are needed immediately to facilitate community participation in this debate, to instill a vision of sustainable alternatives for our riverfront, and to protect the student and public interest by supporting appropriate legal challenges to development under the old plan. Funds for gathering baseline information about the site must be secured before serious discussion with landscape architecture firms can begin.
D. Unique Target of Opportunity
The University of Oregon’s riverfront is arguably some of the most valuable real estate in the county. We believe it should not be squandered for uses that do not benefit the students or the fundamental mission of the university.
Our university must position itself in the highly competitive world of academia to attract students and top faculty. Like the university’s successful athletics program, the riverfront has the potential to offer an amenity that other schools do not provide – yet with only a comparatively small investment.
7. Budget and Justification (top)
To date, supporters of a new riverfront plan have already contributed well over a thousand hours of volunteer time and contributed more than $20,000 in donations. Funds requested in this proposal will be used for advocacy, education, research, and public engagement, to culminate in the development of a community-supported vision for the riverfront. Costs will be kept to a minimum by involving student groups, leveraging educational opportunities, and consulting with local expertise whenever possible. Cost estimates and a proposed outline for the process are provided in attached spreadsheet.
8. Conclusion (top)
Today, throughout our nation and around the world, cities are replacing their crumbling waterfront infrastructure with attractive public places. From shops to parks, amphitheaters and wildlife habitat areas, a greater vision is possible. The question is: Why not at the UO?
We have, in our midst, a magnificent, historical, and ecologically important natural resource. With this project, we’ll have an opportunity to reshape the university’s riverfront development plan to ensure that our resources are used wisely and responsibly, and to preserve the quality of life for future generations of students and citizens. Connecting Eugene can help make sure students have a voice in that process. With input from students, faculty, and community members, we could take the first steps down a new path, towards a sustainable, socially-responsible future for our university.
For many decades students have taken for granted public, open space next to the river. We owe it to future generations to preserve the quality of life that we enjoy today. To make this happen we, the students, need to be involved – these funds will allow us to do this.