Mayor Wheeler, President Shoureshi break ground on new $104 million building

Clad in a hardhat and wielding a shovel, Mayor Ted Wheeler led the charge on Jan. 11 during a groundbreaking ceremony at the corner of 4th and Montgomery streets for a long-anticipated $104 million, seven-story addition to the Portland State campus.  

Wheeler was joined by PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi, Portland Community College President Mark Mitsui and Oregon Health & Science University President Danny Jacobs, as well as members of the PSU community—including representatives from the College of Education, which will have classrooms located in the new building. There will also be five or six retail spaces available on the ground floor with vendors yet to be decided.

With the ground ceremoniously broken, President Shoureshi began the press conference with an optimistic outlook for the new building and all involved.

“We are more than just financial partners in this project,” Shoureshi said. “We are partners in growing a healthy, educated and sustainable Oregon.”

Wheeler emphasized the importance of partnership in the operation of the building.

“This is unlike any other partnership I have been engaged in or the city of Portland has been engaged in,” Wheeler said.

He outlined three main goals for the joint project: providing more professional development for students, boosting local economic growth and creating more public/private partnerships.

“If we create more pathways to education and job training, that opens up more economic opportunities for the people who live in our community—including those populations who have historically not benefited from those kinds of opportunities, [such as] people of color, low-income folks and others who have not been full beneficiaries in the expansion of our economy,” Wheeler said.

He thanked those involved in the planning and building process, including Prosper Portland, an economic and urban development agency for the city of Portland.

“It’s through Prosper Portland that the city of Portland has engaged in this project. We’ve invested in this project, and what we did was we conveyed the land to PSU that will house this project…each of us will co-own space in the facility,” Wheeler said. “That makes it unique as well.”  

“It’s a collaborative opportunity with us, OHSU, PCC and the city,” said Kirk Kelly, chief information officer at PSU. “There will be multiple services offered out of the building, and we’ll also have our College of Education, and our joint School of Public Health with OHSU.”

According to Dan Zalkow, associate vice president for planning, construction & real estate at PSU, the project is right on schedule.

“We feel good about the schedule at this time,” Zalkow said. “It’s really important that these organizations work really well together—our future depends on it. This project is a good representation of that collaboration. It was a parking lot up until a month ago, but it’s nice to see something that’s more suited to this environment.”

Susan Shortridge, executive assistant to the dean of the College of Education, participated in the design and planning committee over the last two years.

“It’s been fun and challenging and team-building, and just really an exciting adventure to get us to this point, so we’re just really thrilled to have the groundbreaking today and to start to see the physical result,” Shortridge said.

Susan Gust, an architect working on the project, said she is looking forward to seeing the building come to fruition after so much planning.

“It’s not an easy task to have four stakeholders and to plan a cohesive and really amazing building,” Gust said. “I’ve spent every day of my life on this project for over a year, so I’m really happy that construction is beginning soon.”