Concordia closure piques developer interest
The surprise announcement this month that Concordia University will close its doors for good at the end of the academic year left students, faculty and the community stunned.
And left some developers pondering their options.
When Concordia closes this spring, it likely will sell off its 24-acre campus, 2811 N.E. Holman St., between Lombard and Ainsworth and east of Northeast 33rd Ave. That includes not only lush, flat acreage in the heart of Northeast Portland, but also classrooms, student housing, a library, greenspace, and well-maintained athletic facilities.
One developer who did not wish to be named said the problem is this: Anyone who wanted anything other than an institutional use — that is, another school — would face resistance from the neighbors, since neighbors generally prefer things as they are.
Other developers aren't so sure.
"I think this took people by surprise, including some of my friends who work there," said Jordan Schnitzer, head of Harsh Investment Properties. "This is a strong market; there's a high demand for property. It would be nice to see it repurposed."
Schnitzer said he's enthusiastic about immediate reuse. "Obviously as an educational facility, but we could do something to help the homeless or less fortunate people."
Schnitzer owns the former Wapato jail, which has sat empty in North Portland since it was built in 2003, and which many covet as an answer for Portland's homeless population.
Schnitzer isn't ruling out another campus use for the Concordia site. He said Portland State University, Lewis & Clark College, the University of Oregon or Oregon State University could benefit from more campus space.
"I don't know the ownership; maybe Concordia could do a long-term lease?" Schnitzer wondered. "There are lots of ways to do this. Where there's a will, there's a way."
Kira Cador, president of local developer Rembold, has a daughter getting a master's degree in teaching at Concordia right now, so her family is affected.
"The aspirational idea is for Portland Public Schools to see if there is an opportunity to build on the 3 to PhD program (at Concordia and nearby Faubion K-8) and bring more educational experts and partnerships into the fold and create a center for excellence that is establishing and teaching the best ways to close the opportunity gap for good," Cador told the Business Tribune.
Cador said such an endeavor "would involve big picture, outside-of-the-box thinking on partnerships and funding. ... The zoning will be tough to change in the short term to create other than an educational or medical campus there."
She added, "I am on the board of a nonprofit that is solely focused on closing the achievement gap for kids of color, KairosPDX. We have been kicking around the idea of being part of a larger educational effort to help teach and share our methods to create systemic change."
Popular sports venues
Among the questions raised with the school's closing is: What becomes of the campus athletic facilities?
Hilken Community Stadium has been the home of Cavaliers soccer, baseball and softball since it opened in fall 2011. It also is heavily used by community organizations for youth sports practices and clinics.
The sports facilities include the stadium, LCEF Court (home of the Concordia basketball and volleyball teams) and the unique Concordia Throws Center. Located off campus, the throws center opened in 2006 and is used by high school and college athletes from around the region, along with Olympic athletes, who compete in the discus, javelin, hammer or shot put.
With high demand for fields for youth and adult sports, losing the multi-use, artificial turf stadium facility would be a blow to the Northeast Portland community.
Matt Martin, who has been Concordia's vice president for intercollegiate athletics only since Dec. 9, 2019, said he understands the significance of Hilken Community Stadium to the community.
"I would hate to see it redeveloped into something else," Martin said. "You would love to see the equipment and facilities go to help this community."
United PDX soccer club was the first community partner to contribute to the stadium project and has had more than 1,000 players per year train at the facility, according to Ryan Youngblood, United PDX executive director. Youth soccer teams train at the stadium Monday through Friday and will continue to have access to the stadium through the end of April.
"The school has been a great partner for us and has provided a home for our players to train and play games over the years," Youngblood said. "We certainly hope that we can find a way to keep the facility in use for the greater good of the kids that we serve in our community, and we are open to exploring options to make that happen."
Martin, the Concordia athletic director, said he doesn't know what the future holds for the facilities, or for Concordia's sports equipment. Those decisions will be made by the new owners of the property. Martin said he already has heard from one local high school asking if it can have Concordia's soccer goalposts.
The baseball and softball section of the stadium, known as Porter Field, is especially popular because the artificial surface means fewer rainouts. Martin said Western Oregon University baseball, a Great Northwest Athletic Conference rival, has played a significant number of its home games at Porter Field when its own field wasn't playable.
In the past, the stadium has been used by some Portland Interscholastic League programs. The only Portland Public Schools program that has regularly used a Concordia facility during the current school year is the Grant High dance team.
Central Catholic High baseball has played games at Porter Field, but does not have any games scheduled there this spring.
Portland Parks & Recreation does not currently use Concordia facilities for its programs, according to spokesperson Mark Ross.
"We would be happy to look into having more synthetic turf sports fields; but it's too early to say whether or not we will pursue any property purchase from Concordia," Ross said in an email.
Martin said that prior to the announcement that Concordia would close, he was talking with organizations, including Sport Oregon, about expanding the number of activities at the stadium.
Martin said the facility is ideal for a wide variety of events, including lacrosse and seven-on-seven football.
Reporters Paul Danzer and Dana Haynes contributed to this story.
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