The Oregon legislative session that commenced on Monday will see to the Oregon University System’s capital request budget, which includes a call for $83 million to be put toward Portland State’s Neuberger Hall.
The 2011–13 budget ranks 25 requests for building maintenance and renovation across OUS. Neuberger Hall is the sixth item on the list.
Built in two phases between 1962 and 1969, Neuberger Hall retains most of its original construction. The major renovations in question would entail an upgrade of efficiencies and the installation of seismic bracing to safeguard the building against earthquakes.
“Think about renovating a house,” said Communications Director Scott Gallagher. “You would want it to be safer and more efficient.”
Robyn Pierce, the director of Facilities and Planning at PSU, is overseeing the Neuberger project during the proposal stage.
“At PSU, we don’t have the funding to keep things up-to-date as we should,” she said. “We need so much done around campus.”
Justin Peery, a graduate of PSU who works as a cashier in Neuberger Hall, said he’s in favor of a renovation. “From office to office, there’s a pretty major temperature differential,” he said, referring to the building’s heating system, which hasn’t been updated since Neuberger was first built.
“There’s things that could stand to be fixed,” he said.
Robyn Pierce is excited about the proposed changes to Neuberger Hall and other items in the budget. Besides the Neuberger renovation, another major priority is a request for $35 million to go toward the School of Business.
Pierce hopes to purchase the City Tower, a negotiation that’s been developing between the city of Portland and the university for years, and relocate the School of Education there, allowing for the School of Business to fully occupy the building that currently houses both departments.
“The School of Business is one of our largest-growing programs,” said Scott Gallagher. “We need space.”
Pierce plans to close half of Neuberger Hall at a time for construction, relocating employees to the Unitus building or to the City Tower, if purchased.
Pierce and Gallagher emphasized PSU’s allegiance to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the international green building certification program.
The construction standard across Portland is to meet the LEED Silver criterion; at PSU, builders try to achieve LEED Gold, said Gallagher. Shattuck Hall, the Engineering Building and the Academic and Student Recreation Center are all LEED Gold. Lincoln Hall is awaiting LEED Platinum certification.
In deciding how to rank the construction needs of Oregon universities, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education considers three factors, according to Bob Simonton, assistant vice chancellor for Capital Programs at OUS. These factors are the building’s seismic risk, its energy statistics and what’s called the facility condition index—a building’s flaws versus its worth.
Simonton said that PSU’s older buildings have long been an OUS priority.
“It’s taken awhile to educate the state,” he said.
A few years ago, Simonton and Pierce led the Oregon Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee, on a tour of Lincoln Hall, which was then awaiting renovation.
“It was like a combination of Fear Factor and an antique road show,” he said. “We took [the committee] down to the basement…they were horrified by the leaking water.”
The capital budget has succeeded in recent years, according to Simonton, partly because the legislature warms up to the jobs created by construction.
However, with Oregon facing a troubled economy, this year is different. In Governor John Kitzhaber’s inauguration speech yesterday, he described a hard road ahead.
“We face high unemployment, a divided state, and a projected budget deficit of $3.5 billion—about 20 percent of our General Fund,” he said.
But Pierce is still hopeful.
“I’m cautiously optimistic…it’s such an important project for the university,” she said.?