Courtesy of Mike Bondi/OSU Extension
Oregon State University Extension is one step closer to a new building for its community programs in Clackamas County.
County commissioners unanimously approved the new OSU Extension Education Center during a work session April 3. The 22,000-square-foot facility will be at the corner of Warner Milne and Beavercreek roads in Oregon City, within the Red Soils Business Park.
Mike Bondi, regional administrator for OSU Extension and director of the North Willamette Research and Extension Center, said the Education Center will provide much-needed space for programs to flourish — including 4-H, home gardening, forestry and family nutrition.
“It’s going to be a great resource for the community,” Bondi said.
But first, OSU Extension needs to secure building permits from Oregon City, a process that could take up to four months and several rounds of public comment. If all goes smoothly, Bondi said they hope to go out for bid for construction by the end of summer.
The project is expected to cost about $10 million. Bondi said the local OSU Extension Service District should have about $7 million set aside when the building is finished, and will raise the rest either through private fundraising or seek a bridge loan from the county.
Once completed, Bondi said the Education Center will give faculty and staff a big leg up in serving the public.
OSU Extension is celebrating 100 years in Clackamas County. The program has eight faculty and 16 support staff, and reaches between 50,000 and 70,000 people per year.
Yet since 1982, extension offices have been housed in a relatively old and cramped county building that has, at various times, also been used for the surveyor’s office and public health department. Bondi said that building was not adequate to meet their needs then, and it is not adequate to meet their needs now.
“Most everything is done away from the office,” he said of their current situation. “We have to go find space and move all our stuff. That’s how we’ve operated for the last 35 years.”
Voters formed the Clackamas County Extension and 4-H Service District in 2008, which collects local taxes to support OSU Extension programs. It was then that Bondi said a new building became a serious possibility.
“We took that seriously and started putting money aside,” he said.
By 2014, OSU Extension began designing what the facility would look like. What they came up with was a two-story building with a 150-seat meeting room, test kitchen, outdoor greenhouse and show gardens and a plant diagnostic testing lab for Master Gardeners.
“We’re pretty excited about what the possibilities for the building will be,” Bondi said.
The Education Center will also be a showcase for the region’s wood products and sustainable forestry practices, Bondi said. With more than 3,000 private forestland owners across the county, he said forestry is a big driver of the local economy.
“It’s going to be jewel in our crown, as well as the community’s crown,” Bondi said.