One man’s landfill is another man’s opportunity, and Oregon State University-Cascades is taking it.
Their plans for a hub to connect students and the local workforce in a so-called Innovation District have been in the works for years.
As the first of its kind in the state, the Innovation District would allow companies in a variety of fields to share space with students and provide them with new opportunities.
“Each one of the buildings would be really a true partnership between the public sector…OSU…and the private sector industry to create more jobs in Central Oregon,” said Kelly Sparks, OSU-Cascades Associate Vice President for Finance and Strategic Planning.
Both students and companies would benefit from each other.
“Rather than a high-tech company having to recruit on the other side of the state and encourage a student to come over here, they start working with that company as an intern while they’re going to school,” Sparks said.
“They‘re learning the skills they need to be workforce-ready when they come out in their field of interest.”
“Universities have all this deep expertise that companies can’t necessarily afford to have,” said Rod Ray, chair of the OSU-Cascades Advisory Board.
“There’s students there that can be interns, there’s other companies there that they can interact with. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity with this Innovation District to create a lot of value for Bend, a lot of value for students and a lot of value for Oregon State.”
Phase one of the Innovation District will involve the construction of six buildings on eight acres, totaling at 270,000 square feet.
Four of the buildings will be for connections with companies in fields like biosciences or healthcare.
One will be an assembly space for the community, and another will be for 300 units of affordable housing.
“This is being built on a landfill, the former landfill from Deschutes County, so it’s not buildable right now. We need to clean up the land,” Sparks said.
The university is in the process of seeking funding for that first step, which will cost $34 million…$15 million for the cleanup process, and $18 million for the remediation process.
On Feb. 4, they will hold their first meeting with potential partner companies and developers who are interested in building on the land after remediation.
They hope to clean up the space over the next two years, and expect to see construction underway by 2025.
After that, another 10 buildings could potentially become part of the site in ‘Phase 2’.
“There’s not a lot of towns like Bend that are growing like Bend and have new companies coming in,” Ray said. “There’s also not a lot of towns with a brand new university in the middle of them either.
“Because of where we located OSU-Cascades and some of the land that’s being reclaimed over there, that gives us a really unique opportunity.”