New Alumni Center to be a ‘front door’ to campus

Posted by Daily Emerald Archives on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 12:00 am.

If the rumors are true, University graduates are going to have a really cool place to hang out in a few years.

University President Dave Frohnmayer effectively introduced the Alumni Center campaign to the public Friday, which, with $2 million of Lorry Lokey’s just-announced $74.5 million donation allocated to the project, is nearing its fundraising halfway mark of $12 million.

A University document indicates that originally, the campaign would be for $15 to $20 million in private gifts, but as time progressed it became apparent that the project will require at least $25 million because of rising construction costs and the innovative nature of the building.

“The Alumni Center will be uniquely Oregon, and it will tell the Oregon story in a way that will be entrepreneurial, innovative… all the things that really define this University,” said Program Manager Kathie Bedbury. She said the cost will produce the “best alumni center in America.”

“As we’ve learned more about what the building’s program elements will be… we’ve been able to in the last year kind of fine-tune what that figure’s going to be,” said Bedbury.

The center was officially named the Cheryl Ramberg Ford and Allyn Ford Alumni Center, after the couple who made the initial $5 million donation in June 2006 to launch the fundraising campaign.

The Alumni Center site, which Frohnmayer officially approved in March, is along Franklin Boulevard between Agate Street and East 13th Avenue. The Center will also house the Alumni Association, the University Foundation, the Career Center and the Office of Development. It is also designed to serve as a University welcome center for visitors and an eastern gateway, a sort of “front door” to the University.

“It was symbolic, but nevertheless pretty important, to the leadership and the investors for the University to… put a stake in the ground for the Alumni Center,” said Bedbury. “We were able to with that announcement really take this campaign out to the greater alumni community, but as well the greater local community.”

The facility may also house the proposed Academic Learning Center, pending University approval.

The project is expected to break ground in spring 2009, although it is still unclear exactly when construction will begin. The timeline is dependent upon other campus projects as well, primarily the basketball arena and academic center, both of which will join the Alumni Center at the “eastern gateway.” The schedule could also be altered if the fundraising doesn’t go according to plan.

“There’s always a potential for hiccups along the way, so that’s just an estimate based on where we are now,” Project Planner Gene Mowery said.

A user group comprising representatives from neighboring buildings, the campaign committee and the campus planning committee also selected an architecture firm to design the Alumni Center. Opsis Architecture, a Portland firm, is run by three University graduates who were selected in part because of their personal knowledge of the campus, although some of the four other prospective firms also featured University graduates, said Mowery.

“Opsis was obviously the one the user group was most impressed with and selected,” Mowery said. “Opsis… showed their energy and enthusiasm for the campus and it really came through in the interview.”

Bedbury said while the campaign was an original component of Campaign Oregon, the $600 million fundraising project that has surpassed its goal with Lokey’s most recent donation, it initially wasn’t a priority. Now it may play a big part as a tool for the University to sustain the private support it receives for Campaign Oregon.

“It’s really going to be an opportunity for the University to maximize its outreach in engaging alumni and friends,” said Bedbury.