UO picks Salem for sustainable initiative

The University is teaming up with the city of Salem for the 2010-11 Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI).

The project gives students the chance to build their resumes and gain real-world experience. Program coordinators, city officials and University faculty are excited about next school year’s projects.

University students and faculty will collaborate with Oregon’s capital to create solutions to important development, planning, and civic engagement issues, according to the University’s May 25 press release.

More than 25 courses, 25 faculty members and 600 students will contribute to Salem projects during the upcoming academic year. Students can get involved in the program by registering on DuckWeb before fall term. The architecture; interior architecture; landscape architecture; arts and administration; law; business; journalism; and planning, public policy and management programs are all involved in the project. Students from other academic fields can also get involved.

According to SCI’s Web site, the initiative’s mission is to meet local, regional, and national sustainable city design and function goals; provide service and technical assistance to Oregon and beyond; attract students interested in sustainability; and engage experts in discourse and exchange of ideas.

The University chose Salem over four other Oregon cities: Eugene, Klamath Falls, Beaverton and Springfield. “The city (of Salem) is completely invested in this,” SCI co-director Nico Larco said.

The Salem City Council, Salem Housing Authority Commission and Salem’s Urban Renewal Agency Board approved their participation in the program on May 24.

Some of the projects include north downtown waterfront development, Civic Center space needs, Orchard Village green community integration, and industrial by-product reuse. The first projects are set to begin in late September to coincide with the University’s schedule.

“These projects have some sustainable component,” Nick Fleury said, SCI project manager. “They’ll have some actual real-world components.”

Various Salem officials are excited about the project.

“It’s different from anything else we’ve ever done,” Courtney Knox said, Salem’s representative for the SCI program.

Salem city manager Linda Norris also expressed hope about professional relationships forming with projects such as SCI.

“We think this program is a great model for encouraging additional future collaboration between Oregon universities and Oregon cities,” she said in a press statement.

The program experienced success in the city of Gresham this school year.

“We’re excited about what happened in Gresham,” Fleury said.

Almost 100,000 hours of student work were applied to projects throughout Gresham in the 2009-10 school year. The SCI course listings expanded to 21 by the end of the school year, after beginning with only six and spanned five different academic departments. The students’ and faculty members’ efforts contributed to future planning endeavors in the city of Gresham.

SCI began in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts and now extends across multiple disciplines on campus. Larco, Robert Young, and Marc Schlossberg founded SCI and are now the co-directors of the program.

The program has gone far since the first planning stages three years ago. “It’s grown tremendously, even in this first year,” Larco said.

For the 2010-11 program, SCI hopes to create more cross-discipline endeavors and introduce sustainable ideas to the city of Salem. “We want to create a better network about thinking about sustainability,” Larco said.

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