Oregon’s public universities won big recently during the 2021 legislative session, scoring $332.9 million in bond authorizations for major capital projects.

Oregon State University’s Cordley Hall renovation was the single largest recipient of funding, receiving $86 million in total bond authorizations. The University of Oregon won $58.5 million in bond authorization for its Heritage Project renovations. Portland State University received $50 million for its Gateway Center reuse and extension.

Legislators were in a generous mood after a new revenue forecast showed surging income-tax collections. Funding for many priorities sailed through before the 2021 session concluded on June 26.

Community colleges also benefited. In addition to the nine-figure bond authorization for the state’s four-year public universities, two-year colleges were authorized to issue $75.95 million in bonds. Blue Mountain, Central Oregon, Linn-Benton, Mount Hood, Chemeketa and Tillamook Bay community colleges were among those to receive major funding.

Taken together, the funding will help kick off a burst of higher education projects around Oregon.

“This year’s legislative session showed strong support for higher education institutions and students,” UO spokeswoman Molly Blancett stated in an email. “The results are record investments in capital renovations on campuses, and full funding of UO’s operating and student financial aid requests.”

In Corvallis, an effort is under way to transform and modernize Cordley Hall, which was built between 1956 and 1965, according to an OSU magazine. The 236,000-square-foot building, which houses the Department of Integrative Biology, has limited collaborative space and is dominated by linear hallways and classrooms, according to the university. Following the renovation, the building will have modular laboratory layouts to give researchers more flexibility.

“It’s science, agriculture and teaching,” said Steve Clark, an OSU spokesman. “So for us it was a priority to complete the renovation, and the university is certainly appreciative the Legislature agreed to continue to participate in that effort.”

The state will benefit with new buildings, millions of dollars in new economic activity and construction jobs, Clark said.

OSU also won funding for the Student Success Center at its Cascades campus in Bend. The state-authorized $13.8 million in bond funding will add to $5 million raised by student fees for the project. The 22,500-square-foot building will have offices, meeting rooms and support services.

“For a developing campus – for any campus – to have a student success center is very important,” Clark said.

The Legislature also backed OSU’s Reser Stadium West Grandstand extension with $40 million in bond funding. Those dollars will be repaid by the university via tuition revenue and rent from a health clinic to be located in the building.

In Eugene, UO is embarking on major renovations of its two oldest buildings: University Hall (145 years old) and Villard Hall (135 years old). The combined renovations are called the Heritage Project, which involves seismic and other life and safety upgrades to the buildings. Water infiltration will be corrected, and the original steam heating will be replaced with modern HVAC (the buildings currently have no cooling system).

University and Villard halls will also be renovated with Americans with Disabilities Act access in mind; the buildings are noncompliant with ADA in stairways, bathrooms, elevators and lobbies, according to the university.

At PSU, the renovation and expansion of the downtown Gateway Center, at 200 S.W. Fifth Ave., will provide spaces for the School of Art + Design, Student Health and Counseling, and Speech and Hearing Sciences. The project will create new student space, labs, teaching spaces, materials storage, specialty clinics and a wellness center. New gallery and exhibit spaces will promote enrollment and interaction with the community.

The project will bring art students under one roof, said Elisabeth Charman, director of the School of Art + Design.

“To be able to have a center where everybody is together, you can see each other as you’re working through the building and you can exchange ideas and collaborate better … bringing us together is super healthy,” she said.

One other advantage, according to Charman: Students won’t have to tote canvases and art projects across PSU’s south downtown campus.

Article was originally published by DJC Oregon.