A high-profile effort by Oregon State University to add more on-campus housing goes before the Corvallis Planning Commission on Wednesday.
The university is seeking to modify the development and open space allocations in three of its nine sectors. (The campus master plan divides the campus into nine sectors; each sector has minimum open space requirements and a maximum square footage for development.)
To facilitate its campus housing plans, OSU wants to move 95,000 square feet of development space from Sector B, in the center of campus, to Sector D on the east end of Lower Campus near the intersection of Ninth Street and Monroe Avenue. The university also wants to shift 10,000 square feet of open space from Sector D.
City approval is required for such modifications, which will be the subject of a 7 p.m. Planning Commission public hearing at the downtown fire station, 400 NW Harrison Blvd. The hearing only concerns the narrow issue of the sector changes, but if the application is approved, OSU plans to move ahead with a new dorm that would house upper-division and graduate students.
No development plans are part of the sector proposal, but OSU officials have discussed elements of the plan with neighbors and the City Council.
Those plans call for two dormitory buildings that would house approximately 290 students. One building would occupy the Ninth Street frontage between Monroe and Madison, with the second an L-shaped structure that would be anchored at the corner of Madison and 11th.
The university also would provide parking on the site as per an interim parking development agreement with the city. OSU is required to build 66 spaces on the Lower Campus site and establish 14 more elsewhere. The debate over the parking rules required two council meetings.
All of which would seem to suggest that Wednesday's hearing could be contentious. Representatives of the Central Park Neighborhood Association, which earlier participated in three neighborhood meetings with OSU officials and their consultants, sent a strongly worded letter to the Planning Commission urging denial of the sector swap.
In a letter signed by association President Courtney Cloyd, the group criticized OSU for its process and (a lack of) community and public involvement, called the open space allocations “extreme” and unreasonable and says “OSU’s arguments that the proposed location is the only possible site are not convincing.”
“We believe the lack of transparency in this case has resulted in a seriously flawed project proposal, which should be returned to OSU for reconsideration,” Cloyd wrote in a passage that was highlighted in bold type. “We suggest that OSU restart the process of decision-making regarding the location of this dormitory using a full and transparent public process.”
Central Park-area residents have expressed concerns at the sheer volume of student housing that has gone up in their neighborhood: 308 bedrooms at 7th Street Station (opened 2012) and 112 bedrooms at the site of the old Gazette-Times building (opened 2017). Plus, the massive Washington Yards complex under construction at Seventh Street and Western Boulevard will add 630 bedrooms and a 500-vehicle parking garage when it opens in the fall of 2020.
Add in the OSU dorm and that adds up to nearly 1,350 rooms with the ancillary parking, traffic and general livability challenges.
“There is a lot of building fatigue around here,” Cloyd told OSU officials at an April 24 neighborhood gathering at the Depot Suites Meeting Room.
OSU, meanwhile, notes in its application that one of the recommendations of the 2012-2014 OSU-city collaboration was that the university needed to provide more on-campus housing to limit collateral damage in the neighborhoods.
In 2013 OSU began requiring freshmen to live on campus. The university used a similar sector swap to the one currently being reviewed to carve out space for the 289-student Tebeau Hall dorm, which opened in the fall of 2017 near Washington Way.
In addition, a recent housing study of Corvallis conducted by the Brailsford and Dunlavy consulting firm found an unmet need for 1,000 more beds on campus.
OSU’s application calls the Ninth/Monroe site an “ideal location,” noting its proximity to city and university services as well as transportation options.