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Portland Partners With Colleges To Create School Of Public Health

The city of Portland wants to partner with the area’s three largest public colleges to build a new $100 million education and health center downtown. 

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced the partnership with Oregon Health and Sciences University, Portland State University and Portland Community College Monday morning.

In exchange for an estimated $15 million dollar investment in the project, Wheeler said the city would own two floors of office space in the building, in an effort to address a shortage of space for city workers. 

“We have not yet decided exactly which of the bureaus will be located here, but we’re committing to one of the bureaus,” he said.

The city’s investment could pay off in the long run if it reduces the amount of downtown office space the city rents. A recent estimate by the city’s Office of Management and Finance projected that leasing downtown office space for growing bureaus will cost the city approximately $28 million over the next 20 years.

The building would replace a parking lot on city-owned land at Southwest 4th Avenue and Montgomery Street on PSU’s campus.

Other floors would house the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, the PSU Graduate School of Education, and PCC’s dental programs and community clinic. 

The four entities are asking the state legislature for $51 million in bonds for the project. At Monday’s press conference, they were bullish on the prospects of getting the funding from the legislature.

“This project is at the top of the list for recommended funding, so we feel quite positive and encouraged that it will happen,” said PSU President Wim Wiewel.

According to Wiewel, the partnership arose after PSU struggled to raise funds to build a new home for the Graduate School of Education. It’s the largest teacher training school in the state, but it has been operating out of a temporary space.

In the 2015-2017 biennium, PSU asked the state legislature for $17 million in bonds to fund a renovation and expansion for the Graduate School of Education, but legislators passed on that project.

Wiewel said it was difficult for PSU to raise the matching funds it needed in order to qualify for the bonds. “Teachers are doing great work, but most of them don’t wind up rich, so it’s a hard group to raise a lot of money from,” he said. “That’s really how the discussion about doing this building as a partnership started.”

OHSU and PSU have agreed to provide $15 million in funding jointly for the project. PCC, which plans to occupy a third of the space with its dental programs, would also kick in $15 million.

A staffer for Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, who co-chairs the legislature’s Subcommittee on Capital Construction, said it has not yet met to discuss which projects to prioritize for bond funding this session.

The State’s Higher Education Coordination Committee lists the project as its second-highest priority for statewide bond funding in the 2017-2019 biennium, out of a list of about 20 university construction projects it is recommending the state fund. 

The 200,000 square foot building is expected to open in September 2020.    

Oregon Health and Science University Portland Community College Portland State University

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