New era begins as construction starts on UO's Knight Campus

The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact began its transition from vision to reality Friday as heavy equipment started clearing the way for the ambitious project.

Dozens of state and local dignitaries, university officials, faculty and staff at the groundbreaking event applauded as UO President Michael H. Schill gave workers the signal to start tearing down an existing building on what will be the site of the futuristic campus on the north side of Franklin Boulevard.

“This is an important moment in the history of our university as we create a new path to success, impact and opportunity for our students and the state,” Schill said.

The effort to rethink research, science education and innovation is made possible by a $500 million lead gift from Penny and Phil Knight. This game-changing initiative is specifically designed to fast-track scientific discoveries and the process of turning those discoveries into innovations that improve the quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation and beyond.

UO officials also delivered news from Salem that state lawmakers had approved an additional $20 million of state bonds toward the project. The Legislature in 2017 approved $50 million in state bonds for the campus.

“The magnitude of the Knight Campus’ impact is strongly tied to state support. With $70 million in state capital funding, we are ahead of where we expected to be at this time,” said Patrick Phillips, acting executive director of the Knight Campus. “We are very grateful for the state’s support of this once-in-a-generation initiative.”

As part of the 2018 funding package, the UO has pledged to use Oregon-manufactured wood products — particularly cross-laminated timber — to further support the state’s economy. The university will incorporate the wood beams in many public-facing areas of the building.

The first phase of the project includes a $225 million, 160,000-square-foot structure, which will be built on the north side of Franklin Boulevard between Onyx Street and Riverfront Parkway. It is slated to open in early 2020.

The innovative campus stands to have economic benefits of $80 million in annual statewide economic activity. Over the next 10 years, the Knight Campus will house an estimated 30 principal researchers and their teams, generating an estimated 750 new jobs.

Representatives from Hoffman Construction, the general contractor, and the architecture team of Portland-based Bora and New York-based Ennead were also on hand for the event.

The groundbreaking comes a little more than 16 months after the Knight Campus announcement. The initiative will feature cutting-edge labs and open, collaborative spaces. It is expected to attract top researchers in fields new to the UO — such as bio-engineers, computational scientists and immunologists — who will join forces with established UO researchers in the life, physical and prevention sciences, as well as those in management and communications.

By Jim Murez, University Communications