Urban renewal will jumpstart the city and PSU
SO MUCH HAPPENS every day at Portland State that it can be challenging to take a longer view of our campus and envision what we will look like two decades from now. We have a historic opportunity to capture that vision as PSU and the city of Portland seek to revitalize the south end of downtown into a thriving education urban renewal area (URA) that will help guide our growth over the next 25 years.
In May, the Portland City Council designated our campus and surrounding 144 acres as an urban renewal area—making PSU the anchor for up to $169 million in investments from property tax revenues estimated over that period. The URA will help Portland State become a leading engine of economic growth, education, and innovation for our region.
It’s an exciting and ambitious plan, and we worked closely with the city, the county, the Portland Development Commission, Portland Public Schools, and others to iron out details and present them to the public and our downtown neighbors. As Mayor Sam Adams told a recent public gathering: “Every time PSU gets a little bit of unexpected money, it does great things with it.”
URBAN RENEWAL comes at a crucial time for us, given the sharp decline in state funding for higher education and the slow recovery of Oregon’s economy. It is equally important for the city because it will help renew some of the blight near our campus and attract more private investment that will create jobs and stimulate growth.
To be clear, the URA doesn’t subtract property tax revenues that schools and services now receive from development in this designated area. The $169 million will come from additional tax revenues generated by growth that will be set aside for PSU, social services, affordable housing, Lincoln High School, and other partners in the district.
PORTLAND STATE will receive an estimated $50 million from the urban renewal revenue over 30 years, and campus projects that will benefit include expansion of the School of Business Administration, renovations to Cramer and Neuberger halls, and expansion of science, engineering, research and academic facilities. Without urban renewal funds, many of these projects would have to be delayed or scaled back. We need to accelerate these projects to keep pace with enrollment demands. PSU is projected to grow to 50,000 students by 2035—far beyond our current infrastructure capacity—if we continue at our recent growth rate.
In addition, revenues from the URA will also help finance expansion of programs that spin off long-term benefits to Portland’s economy.
The urban renewal plan also serves urgent community needs. For example, 30 percent of the URA—or $46 million—will be set aside under city policy for the preservation or creation of affordable housing. The safety net also will be bolstered countywide because Multnomah County Human Services will receive $19 million under an agreement that includes a stronger partnership with PSU’s School of Social Work.
With all these pieces of the urban renewal plan stitched together over the next two decades, all of us will be able to look back at 2012 as a pivotal year for Portland State and for Portland.
PRESIDENT, PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY