A new face in Old Town
After a 25-year presence in Portland, The University of Oregon Portland campus will be moving into three historic buildings in Portland's Old Town.
By Misty Zakrewski
Fourteen public relations students at the University of Oregon Portland Campus had to think twice about their decision to spend fall term in Portland. The students were chosen from the university’s School of Journalism and Communication to complete an internship program accompanied by public relations courses, known as the Senior Experience. At 6 each evening, the doors to the U of O Willamette Block Building at Second and Yamhill locked, leaving students without a place to study or complete projects after school. Their classes required group projects, but with class members living all over the Portland metro area – from Woodburn to Aloha – they found it difficult to find a convenient meeting place. Some students drove 30 minutes across town to meet their groups at a public library.
“It didn’t feel like a campus,” said Alyssa Carter, a Senior Experience alum. Soon students will no longer have this issue.
"We are really planning for a major expansion,” said Associate Dean Al Stavitsky. “There are lots of conversations in the university encouraging other programs to move.”
At the beginning of spring term 2008, the University of Oregon’s Portland Center will leave the Willamette Block Building and move to a larger space in Portland’s Old Town, neighboring the Portland Saturday Market and Waterfront Park. Students may even receive key cards to access the buildings after school hours.
According to the university Web site, “Three historic buildings consisting of about 100,000 square feet – the Bickel Block Building, the Skidmore Block Building, and the White Stag and Hirsch-Weiss Building – will form the new White Stag Block that will house the University of Oregon's Portland programs. The university has signed an 18-year lease, with an option to buy at the eighth year, for the building and portions of the two other historic buildings also situated on the White Stag Block.”
The three-year renovation project is expected to cost $35 million, more than the project is worth, reported KGW. The White Stag Block will be completed with sustainability in mind. KGW reported that 95 percent of materials within the building will be reused, and a 10,000-gallon underground tank will harvest rainwater, recycling back into the toilet systems, reducing 85 percent of water use.
The University of Oregon has had a presence in Portland for over 25 years. It started with the architecture and allied arts programs, and eventually journalism and law programs were offered there as well. After 25 years the University of Oregon is ready to make a greater commitment to Portland through the White Stag Block, said Al Stavitsky, associate dean of the School of Journalism and Communication.
With the new Portland Center, the university will be able to host lectures, exhibits and other public events. The university Web site says, “The center will include six classrooms, new event space for up to 250 people, a new library for architecture and journalism programs, a shared computer laboratory, and a new university book store and Duck Shop, which will also feature a café.”
The library was only expected to be 1,200 to 2,000 square feet, but ended up at 6,000 square feet to allow more room for students to work on projects together, reported the Oregonian in “UO-Portland a Study in Growth.” The journalism school alone will have four times as much space, increasing to 6,000 square feet from 1,500 square feet. Seventy-five to 100 employees will have administrative offices in the building. The White Stag Block will offer so much space that the university does not know what to do with all of it yet. “This expansion will allow us to do things we could never do before,” said Stavitsky.
The Journalism school started the Senior Experience for Public Relations majors two years ago. For the first time this spring two advertising students will enter the program. "We planned from the start to offer a Senior Experience for as many SOJC students as possible. We started with one sequence (public relations) since we knew that numerous internships would be available. We will offer the program to students from other sequences each term as we move forward. We will adjust courses as necessary as we add more students from other sequences to the program, and we've been planning for that all along. It’s uncertain whether the programs will eventually merge, or remain separate independent programs," said Kim Sheehan, an associate professor of the journalism school.
Currently there are seventy-five graduate and undergraduate architecture students studying and working in Portland. The university Web site says there are plans to hire new faculty, allowing more students to enter the program. According to a recent article in the Oregonian, “The School of Architecture and Allied Arts added a degree in product design and grew from an initial plan for 15,000 square feet to more than 20,000. The School of Law will offer new classes in environmental law in Portland, requiring 800 to 1,200 square feet of additional space.”
“These are all programs we couldn’t offer until we had a greater commitment to Portland,” Stavitsky said. Stavitsky also said the new building may allow other programs within the university to move to Portland as well. "We are really planning for a major expansion,” Stavitsky said. “There are lots of conversations in the university encouraging other programs to move.”
The exact opening date of the White Stag Block is still unknown, but could happen as soon as April. The goal is to move students into the new school at the start of spring term, and the move is expected continue through the summer and be completed by August. On May 7 the School of Journalism plans to sponsor a social with an open guest list to give students and professionals in the community a chance to network and see the new space. This is not the official opening ceremony of the new school. “It will be a way for the Journalism school to recruit new graduate students to the program,” said public relations student Beth Evans, who will be partly responsible for organizing the social.
Students and teachers are eagerly waiting to see the new space. “I haven’t even seen the building yet. I am teaching spring term, and I'm very excited to be in the White Stag building,” said Kelli Matthews, a journalism adjunct professor. “I just don't know how I'm going to best utilize it yet.”
Slideshow: White Stag Block