It's good to see movement on student housing plans

(Photo courtesy of Sharon Biddinger)

Oregon State University announced plans this week for construction of new student housing in South Beach to support the university’s Marine Studies Initiative, the program that will be housed in that new building people have been watching go up for about the last two years next to the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

The finishing touches on the new building are being done now, and it’s scheduled to open this year.

The thing that has had some people concerned, however, is the fact that OSU anticipates up to 500 marine science students and staff coming to Newport once the program is fully up and running. For an area already struggling with a significant housing shortage, we believe those concerns are justified.

Back in 2016, when the location of the marine studies building was first announced, OSU President Ed Ray said they would be building student housing to accommodate this influx of people, and it would be located outside of the tsunami zone. The university purchased a 5-acre parcel for this purpose in the Wilder development near the Oregon Coast Community College campus in South Beach.

Ray tried to alleviate some of the concerns regarding the housing issue in a viewpoint he wrote that appeared on this page in early November of last year. He said the university recognizes housing is an important part the new marine studies program, but he also pointed out the projected growth in student numbers “will occur over many years.” He pledged that going forward, the university would have “more regular, detailed and complete communications with the Newport and Lincoln County community about important matters such as student housing.”

That communication happened this week when OSU representatives met with city and county officials to talk about the plan for housing.

“I’m feeling better about what they shared with us this week. It seems like they have developed an approach that should work in phasing in the housing,” said Newport City Manager Spencer Nebel. “The biggest concern we had was the building was nearing completion, and we wanted to make sure there is adequate housing for the students. The plan we heard sounded reasonable, it sounded like it’s going to meet the needs.” He added, “The catch now is will they be able to perform in accordance with the plan they outlined.”

As it stands now, the first phase of this student housing is designed to serve up to 160 students at any one time, and it should be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2021.

We believe the Marine Studies Initiative will be a great addition to the marine science research already being done in our area, and it will only serve to bolster this area’s image as a leader in this field. Nebel echoed that sentiment, saying, “Certainly from a community standpoint, this is a great project. We’re excited about it, but we do need to know that housing’s going to be adequately addressed for the student population.”

It seems to us that OSU could have done a better job of getting the housing construction underway in a more timely manner, but at least it’s moving forward. We just hope things stay on schedule and that the housing is ready when it’s needed.

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