UO won’t change ‘Made in Oregon’ sign

First, it was the iconic neon “Made in Oregon” sign that inspired the disputes, then the nearby Old Town Water Tower and finally, a parking lot shared with the surrounding buildings.

However, after nine months of property and lease negotiations with the city, the University appears to be nearing a resolution on building matters pertaining to its Portland campus at the White Stag Building in Portland.
In May, neighboring nonprofit Mercy Corps, wrote a stern letter to the city questioning the University’s right to the large parking lot close to Mercy Corps. The ownership of the parking lot was included in the University’s early summer agreement with Commissioner Randy Leonard and the Landmarks Commission.

“Mercy Corps was completely excluded from this process,” Mercy Corps’ chief financial officer, Steve Mitchell, wrote in the May 13 letter. “We were not informed of any of the details. Is this the way the City of Portland works?”

This led to a meeting between the University and Portland Mayor Sam Adams to discuss a change in parking lot ownership, as well as the University’s leasing of the neon sign.

University Provost Jim Bean represented the University at Thursday’s meeting with the city.

“The financial situation has changed since we began this discussion,” Bean said Monday, after announcing to the city that the University will not renew its lease on the sign currently reading “Made in Oregon” owned by Ramsay Signs.

Along with dropping the lease, the University agreed to split the city-owned parking lot with Mercy Corps, granting them 27 spots each, which generates an estimated $54,000 for Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, according to the bureau.

“We are very pleased with the outcome,” Bean said, but added that the University is “still working out the details” with the city and Landmarks Commission.

University junior Daniel Ronan is a Portland resident who has advocated against the University’s attempts to change the sign atop the building to read “University of Oregon,” and later simply “Oregon.” He said he was relieved with the meeting’s resolution.

“The University has finally gotten its grip,” Ronan said. “They shouldn’t have been dealing with an expensive add-on while tuition rates were rising.”

Ronan praised the leadership of new University President Richard Lariviere in connection with the decision.

“Lariviere is more forthright with how he works with Portland and the Eugene campus,” he said. “(Former President Dave) Frohnmayer seemed to have misunderstandings with the motives behind branding the school’s name on a historic sign.”

The future of the surrounding sign now lies in the hands of the city and Landmarks Commission. Leonard also appeared satisfied by the outcome of the meeting.

“What I cared about was that it not say ‘University of Oregon,'” Leonard said. “I had no interest in the parking.”

Leonard said he and Mayor Sam Adams will have an active discussion Oct. 5 about how the city would like to proceed.

City & state politics

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