Salem is at the halfway mark of the Sustainable Cities Initiative program, which partners University of Oregon faculty and classes with a city each year. The goal is to assist the city in achieving sustainable goals.
The projects help students apply what they have learned in class and provide a laboratory in which to test their skills. It also provides the city with fresh thinking and the latest expertise.
Around 275 students have joined together to help design and conceptualize special projects like the new police facility, new trails and restoration of Minto-Brown Park, improving civic engagement, sustainable streetlights and improving downtown circulation.
Vanessa Nevers, a University of Oregon student who hails from Seattle, said she enjoyed the challenge that these projects have posed to her and her fellow classmates.
“I think it is a really great opportunity to work with a real-world situation with city officials and the general public. It is a lot of information to process and exchange with each other.”
But the projects have not been easy. They involve solving complex problems with public input in ten-week studio courses.
“It was definitely an intense process,” said Karim Hassanein, an environmental architecture student, who worked on the restoration of the Minto Island area. His group came up with new ideas for trails, habitat restoration and new ideas for entry points and transportation.
“Trying to do all the research that went into this, as well as develop designs that we can stand up and defend in nine weeks of school, with other classes going on, was pretty intense,” He said.
But Hassanein said in the end that it was very enjoyable class to be a part of. “It was a lot to think about, but honestly it was one of my favorite studios in the program,” he said.
For the city’s part, staff provided basic information as well as advice and criticism.
“There were emails going back and forth the whole time,” Hassanein said, “We had about three midterm reviews, when a few people from the city came down to Eugene to give us criticism of what we had. We came down here a few times to the park to talk with people. They were definitely involved.”
At the end of this year, SCI is expected to have had over 500 students work 80,000 hours for the city of Salem on special projects. SCI expects to involve 28 courses over 10 disciplines to help toward 16 city-identified projects.
Several students will be in attendance at an upcoming Salem City Council subcommittee meeting on February 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Pringle Community Hall. The Salem City Council subcommittee will meet on Februay 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Pringle Community Hall (606 Church St. NE). They’ll be considering whether to recommend a bond measure to Salem City Council for a potential new policy facility. The design of the facility was part of the Fall course for SCI. Several students will be attendance and giving a presentation at the beginning of the meeting. Correction: The print version of this story refers to a confidentiality agreement that does not exist, according to Chris Jones, the program manager at SCI. We regret the error. Information on how to access more information on specifics of the project is forthcoming. We’ll continue covering the progress of the SCI project in the future.