UO to partner with Albany on more than 20 civic projects

The Amtrak train station in downtown Albany.

The University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program will be back in the Willamette Valley this year, this time in partnership with the city of Albany.

The city and the University of Oregon are planning 20 different projects for the 2016-17 academic year, ranging from economic development to parks and recreation planning. Beginning in September, students from more than 10 disciplines at the UO will work closely with the Albany community over the next year.

Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa said she is “excited to work with students and faculty at the University of Oregon and see what their creative minds bring to Albany. Albany has a wonderful opportunity this year to engage hundreds of students and professional faculty to take a fresh, cost-effective look at projects that the city has already planned and funded but staff has not had time to complete.”

More than 25 universities and schools in the U.S. and several other countries have adapted the Sustainable City Year Program model. The program is part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, a cross-disciplinary organization at the UO that promotes education, service, public outreach and research on the design and development of sustainable cities.

“This program exemplifies our mission as a public research university to foster discovery, teach future leaders and serve our communities,” UO President Michael Schill said. “Our students benefit from this rich experiential opportunity to put their knowledge to work, and our communities benefit by identifying ways to revitalize their economic vitality in a sustainable way."

Now in its seventh year, the Sustainable City Year Program links UO students with an Oregon city for an entire academic year. Each year, the partner city receives assistance with projects centered on sustainability through the work of student classes across the university.

In a typical year, more than 400 students from 12 disciplines across 30 classes work on 20 partner-directed projects. At the end of the year, more than 40,000 student hours of work will have been devoted to helping a city transition to a more sustainable future.

Albany staff members are looking forward to student insight on highly anticipated projects, Konopa said, including the development of a concept plan for Willamette riverfront parks and trails that will assess management options for several hundred acres of riparian open space. Another important project will be a downtown catalyst project that will investigate potential for retail development in the east end.

For their part, Sustainable Cities Initiative staff said they are excited to work with a forward-thinking city with great leadership.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Albany this year; the city has put together a fantastic list of projects that will work across numerous departments,” said architecture professor Nico Larco, the SCI co-director. “SCYP Albany will push forward shared goals of improved quality of life for residents and efficiency in government.”