Approval must be followed by funding from the 2012 Oregon Legislature

The Oregon Sustainability Center faces a critical decision next Wednesday - a vote by the City Council to proceed with the groundbreaking but controversial project.

The OSC is intended to be a cutting-edge Living Building near Portland State University owned by the city and the Oregon University System. A step beyond even LEEDS certification, it is designed to generate as much power and harvest as much water as it uses.

The project is strongly supported by Mayor Sam Adams, who says, 'If we want to be at the cutting edge of clean technology and advanced manufacturing, as the city's economic development strategy demands, our public and private sectors must come together and build projects like the Oregon Sustainability Center. We cannot maintain our leadership in this vital, growing sector by wringing hands and watching other cities take big risks and reap bigger rewards. Portland has an advantage over other cities because we already have an economy built around clean tech products and services, but the competition is getting tough.'

The project faces several challenges, however. It is currently estimated at $61.7 million, which is 15 to 20 percent higher than comparable institutional buildings like the Port of Portland's new headquarters at the Portland Airport. Partly because of the higher cost, the 2011 Oregon Legislature balked at authorizing bonds for the project until the city and OUS showed it will be fully leased - including private sector tenants willing to pay the higher cost.

In a statement announcing the vote, the Mayors Office says the project partners will meet with a legislative subcommittee to respond the concerns on Sept. 22, the day after the scheduled council action. Funding would then be requested from the 2012 Oregon Legislature.

The statement promises the 90 percent of available office space will have lease commitments prior to construction, with the intent that 100 percent of the office and retail space will be leased upon project completion. Umpqua Bank has agreed to open a branch in the building, which will be located at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Montgomery Street.

The scheduled vote will authorizing the city to a commitment to own a share of the Oregon Sustainability Center and have the Portland Development Commission fund 50 percent of architecture and engineering work. As part of the commitment, the Oregon University System would fund the other 50 percent.

Other recent developments include the completion of schematic design in early May, the closure of a $3 million project budget gap through fundraising and value engineering, and the selection of Sanyo/Inspec as the solar provider.

The Oregon Sustainability Center project is led by the Oregon University System, Portland Development Commission, the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and an assortment of for-profit and non-for-profit partners in the sustainability and social equity sectors.

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