Eric Mortenson/Capital Press
PORTLAND — Oregon State University is taking over Portland.
That’s an exaggeration, of course. But OSU leased 39,509 square feet in downtown Portland, immediately upping its presence in the state’s largest city.
The university will take up the entire second floor of what old-time Portlanders still call the Meier & Frank Building. Visitors will recall: It’s that beautiful old building kitty-corner from Pioneer Courthouse Square. It opened in 1909, rises 15 stories and takes up an entire block. It was the Meier & Frank department store for decades, and a Macy’s after that. Both closed as the retail trade undergoes a sea change. Now a luxury hotel, The Nines, takes up the sixth through 15th floors.
And the state’s land grant university, still best known for its roots in agriculture, forestry and engineering, sets up highly visible shop in the city of hipsters, homeless, foodies, politicians, lawyers, activists, money and international business types.
The UO also has a considerable presence in Portland. Is OSU ratcheting up the competition between the universities?
OSU President Ed Ray doesn’t describe it that way.
“Serving the Portland region is part of OSU’s 149-year mission as Oregon’s statewide university,” Ray said in a prepared statement. “Our work in Portland complements Oregon State’s teaching, research and outreach and engagement mission and the work we do at our campuses in Corvallis and Bend — and major initiatives, such as the Marine Studies Initiative along Oregon’s coast and globally.”
Several existing Portland-based operations of the university will take up residence in August 2018. They include arms of the Extension Service, the OSU Foundation, the OSU Alumni Association and some athletic department representation. The OSU campus in Corvallis remains the center of each program, however.
The space also will house classrooms, meeting spaces and OSU Advantage, its partnership with private industries and other businesses.
OSU Vice President Steve Clark said the university signed a 10-year lease and will pay about $115,000 per month, or $1.38 million annually. The property owner is KBS and Sterling Bay; the real estate firm CBRE brokered the deal, according to OSU.
Clark, who oversees university oversees relations and marketing, downplayed any competition with UO or with Portland State University.
Instead, he said OSU recognizes the importance of having a “prominent central presence” in Portland. The university also has identified “thousands of adult learners” who are not served by any college or university, Clark said.
The space will better allow OSU to collaborate with local governments, other institutions, school districts, businesses and community groups, he said. About 1,000 students who take on-line courses from OSU live in the Portland area, many of them computer science students, Clark said. The central location gives on-line learners a a touchstone.
OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences is perhaps best represented in Portland, with the well-regarded and busy Food Innovation Center at the edge of the Pearl District.
It’s essential that the state’s land-grant university collaborate with the food and drink industries that have blossomed in the Portland area, Clark said.
In addition, the College of Pharmacy does teaching and research in the Collaborative Life Sciences Building in the booming South Waterfront District, where the medical school, OHSU, has expanded. Extension programs operate in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, including the North Willamette Research and Extension Center near Aurora. OSU’s College of Business offers hybrid MBA programs in Portland, and the College of Veterinary Medicine collaborates with the Oregon Humane Society, which provides care and finds homes for hundreds of cats and dogs annually.