Proposed locations of new building come with controversy

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

The University of Oregon Campus Planning Committee (CPC) has narrowed down three potential sites for a new classroom-faculty office building that is expected to open in 2021.

In May, nine sites were chosen by CPC and consultants Amy Donahue from Bora Architects and Charles Brucker from Place Landscape Architecture. Over the period of three months, the site options narrowed from nine to three. Two of the three options involve disrupting historical buildings, while the third forces a relocation of nearly 200 campus parking spaces.

The campus planning meeting on Aug. 7 concluded that the final three sites are McArthur Court, the Collier House or the parking lot near Prince Lucien Campbell Hall (Lot 16B). Later that evening, CPC hosted an open house to receive public feedback on the three sites chosen to move forward. 

Each site allows the university to grow in a different way but also requires a compromise at each of the three locations. “Determining the best site requires a tricky process of analysis,” said UO planning associate Eleni Tsivitzi.

The 60,000 square foot building will be home to the departments of geography, planning, public policy and management and the environmental studies program. Campus Planning lists the academic focus of the building to be environment and society. Tsivitzi said that a current building that is comparable in size would be Allen Hall, and UO spokesperson Tobin Klinger stated that the Ford Alumni Center is just shy of 60,000 square feet.

Conceptual design of the building began spring term and the new building is expected to have 700-750 classroom seats, 130 informal seats and 175-200 offices/workstations. Christine Thompson, the director of campus planning said that the building is expected to function similarly to Straub Hall, a three to four story high-traffic building.

McArthur Court raised concern from CPC members during the campus planning meeting, possibly because of the building’s historic significance. Built in 1926, the court was home to UO’s basketball team before Matthew Knight Arena was built in 2011. McArthur Court isn’t currently listed on Oregon’s National Register of Historic Places, but its status makes it eligible. 

McArthur Court (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

“I’ve heard a lot of feedback about Mac Court. Some love the idea, others hate it,” Thompson said.

If the McArthur Court site were to be chosen, there are two possibilities for McArthur Court: tear down the facility and rebuild, or keep the building and give it major upgrades. The building is approximately 100,000 square feet, so size is still a factor to be considered. According to Tsivitzi, building the new classroom-faculty office space on University Street would give the university an opportunity to develop south campus and connect the green space from Jane Sanders Stadium to the heart of campus.

“McArthur Court is definitely an opportunity, but maybe not for this one,” Dean Livelybrooks, associate department head of physics and CPC member commented during the meeting.

The parking lot near PLC is similar in size to McArthur Court but is located on the west side of campus. Tsivitzi said there is interest in growing the west side of campus because of the high amount of traffic at the 13th Avenue and Kincaid Street intersection making this parking lot a stepping stone to westward expansion.

Since the parking lot has more space than is needed for the project, architects will have to plan carefully to leave adequate space for future development without disrupting the surrounding businesses and public streets.

If this location is chosen, the 200-space parking lot would need to relocate its spaces. According to Campus Planning, the most expensive option is to replace parking in an underground structure. More affordable options include structured parking or surface lot replacement. Additionally, the LTD bus station would have to shift to a different location, something LTD is already planning on doing, said Tsivitzi.

The expansion toward west campus, specifically from Lot 16B will create a more distinct straight-shot to the EMU. The concrete staircase on Kincaid Street would be replaced with a more accessible route that is ADA-compliant. If this location were to be chosen, the biggest concern would be creating a safe way for people to cross Kincaid Street since the metered spots on the street belong to the city.

The most controversial location was the site of Collier House, a building listed as a historic landmark of Eugene. If this site is chosen, Collier House not be demolished, but instead will be relocated to a to-be-determined location.

Collier House is in the most ideal location of the three proposed sites due to the “7 minute walking circle,” a reference to an area on campus in which every building is a 7 minute walking distance from each other, with the center of the circle being the EMU. 

Collier House is a City of Eugene historic landmark. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

“If we pass up the opportunity to develop academic space on 13th and end up having to place a building like the law school in that location, it would be very non-engaging for the population,” Tsivitsi said.

The department of music and dance is currently located in Collier House. Although the department may be relocated along with the building itself, a relocation is a concern to the department’s specific nature. The department’s current location suits its acoustic needs well and volume level must be considered in the potential new location.

“We plan to reach out for the desires and uses of the displaced departments,” Tsivitzi said.

In addition to further discussion during campus planning meetings, a second open house is planned for Sept. 27, with a higher volume of student feedback expected since classes will resume. A final site decision is expected from the president in October.

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