Concordians greeted with delight – and some relief – the March 1 announcement by the University of Oregon (UO) that it plans to purchase the Concordia University (CU) campus.
It ended the wait of two years and 18 days for neighbors to learn the fate of the 115-year-old, 13-acre campus. Some feared it might be what neighbor Kristen Hagstrom described as, “just parceled out and sold to the highest bidder.
“This seems like best case scenario for the neighborhood,” she added. “It seems like they really want to be here in the neighborhood.”
Sarah Pearson and husband Trae bought KISS Coffee on nearby Ainsworth Street only a few months before the February 2020 announcement that Concordia University would close. The CU campus had its own dining facilities and didn’t bring a lot of business to KISS. But she looks forward, with UO’s presence, to a renewed energy of more people coming and going.
“I think it’s exciting. I think Concordia is such a beautiful campus. To see it empty was really sad.”
For Joann Scheck, who lives a stone’s throw from the campus, UO’s plans to create the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavior Health brings the campus full circle. When she entered Concordia College as a freshman in 1956, it was to become a teacher to help fill the enormous need schools were experiencing with the Baby Boom generation.
“It’s going back to its roots, instead of going off in some other direction,” she said of the dormant campus. Just as there was a mid-century need for teachers, according to Joann, now schools have a tremendous need for more behavior health professionals.
“It seemed like Concordia always had a mission, and here we have this mission now that U of O is going to develop something that’s so needed. It just feels it’s the right time. We need to address the mental health needs of our children.”
Kristen worked for Concordia University for two years as an academic counselor in the College of Education, housed in Faubion School. She was one of many Concordians laid off in 2020. When more programming moves from UO’s Old Town facility, she expects new employment opportunities may open.
The mother of two, she’s also glad to hear that neighborhood use of the campus is on the minds of UO leaders. Campus grounds and facilities traditionally hosted many events and opportunities for youth.
“We were always checking out books from the children’s library,” Kristen added. “It was such a fun place to go and read on a rainy day.”
Editor’s note: For a recap of UO’s March 1 announcement about purchasing the campus and its commitment to the neighborhood, visit ConcordiaPDX.org/current-topics/cusale.
Nancy Varekamp is semiretired from her career in journalism, public relations and – her favorite work engagement – writing and editing targeted newsletters.