Growth in Bend: OSU-Cascades Expansion

Kathy Wilson
Tue, 12/16/2014 (All day)

If you live in Bend, you’ve probably heard pros and cons about the development of the OSU-Cascades campus. If you haven’t been following the issue, the University is planning to build on a 10-acre site to accommodate more students and then potentially expand onto an adjacent 46-acre site in the future. This has raised concerns about increased traffic, increased stress on the already stressed housing market, and the location of the campus itself - whether or not the 46-acre site is even safe or desirable to build on. Recently, after the project was approved by the City Council, opponents filed a notice of intent to appeal with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. There are challenges ahead that any City faces as it plans for growth, but here’s why we think OSU-Cascades is a part of the solution.

In the short term, OSU-Cascades wants to develop its 10-acre site to accommodate more students and turn the University into a competitive, regional, four-year school. The longer term plan is to expand onto the adjacent 46-acre site. That site is currently a pumice mine, and it needs to prove out as a safe spot to build. But the pumice mine site is inside the UGB, so if it is buildable, it’s a good location for development to happen, and a better location for development to happen than alternative sites on the outskirts of town - which would encourage sprawl. 

Map of new campus location:

Location of Campus Expansion

Map from 

OSU-Cascades has done extensive research and followed the guidelines in statewide Goal 12 for transportation planning to get to the proposed 300 parking spaces as part of the 10-acre site development. The detailed reasoning is laid out in their Parking Management Plan. One reason for fewer spaces is to encourage a healthier community through active transportation and fewer emissions, and to invest in transit. Campus commuters will have varied schedules so there do not need to be enough spaces for all students to park at the same time. Having fewer spaces will encourage students and staff who live near campus to walk or bike instead of driving. When you give away parking for free, it encourages people to drive. Though often controversial, limiting the availability of parking is one way to encourage options that are better for Bend. 

OSU-Cascades will encourage bicycling by building more bike amenities on campus and setting up a bike share program. The parking plan calls for incentivizing carpooling by giving discounts for carpool permits and allocating prime parking spots for those with carpool permits. Another strategy is to provide transit passes to encourage the use of buses.

Despite these incentives not to drive, even the fairly small 300 spot parking lot will contribute to congestion in the areas surrounding campus and could result in some parking in adjacent neighborhoods. There is currently only one bus route serving the campus, so even with transit passes provided, it might not be feasible for many students and staff to rely on transit. We are hopeful that OSU-Cascades will continue working with the City to plan for transportation infrastructure that will meet the needs of the entire city, not just the staff and students of OSU-Cascades.

Adequate, affordable housing is already a significant issue in Bend, particularly on the Westside, so creating a larger student population has the potential to stress the housing market even more. On the other hand, there is an existing need for multi-family housing options in Bend, and a student population will certainly add to that. Hopefully it will spur the City and OSU to take strong steps to provide affordable, multi-family housing options. Lifting the statewide ban on inclusionary zoning would help to alleviate housing issues in Bend and across the state. A healthy portion of multi-family housing along with single-family housing can better address the need for more, affordable housing than single-family housing alone. Affordable housing does not have to be all apartment buildings. Duplexes and in-law apartments fit into the character of historically single-family neighborhoods, yet still provide more affordable options to students and to long-time Bend residents.

Bend is growing; this is inevitable. Some of the issues that Bend already faces as a growing city, such as transportation and housing, are being brought to the forefront. The OSU-Cascades development has focused these conversations on a large institutional site. The University’s willingness to work with the City and community members as it plans for growth is a great asset to Bend and to Central and Eastern Oregon. The success of this collaboration will depend, in part, on whether the overall community benefits because of improved transit and bikeways, and more affordable, multi-family housing (not to mention better access to one of Oregon's great educational institutions).