University Village

The proposed design of University Village. (Courtesy of Around the O)

A development featuring a hotel, apartments, retail space and a parking deck could be coming to the Romania Lot located on Franklin Boulevard east of Matthew Knight Arena and Market of Choice.

The site, called University Village, will be under private development, meaning the construction costs will not be paid for by the university. Mike Harwood, associate vice president and university architect, said the developer will pay rent for the land and build the site with approval from the city and board of trustees.

“The students would really care that this is absolutely a way to avoid any capital costs impacting the general budget — which reverberates down to tuition,” Harwood said.

Designs are preliminary and could change before construction. The developers, Portland-based Project^, are the chosen candidates for the job and will be the official partner once negotiations are complete.

“We wanted these developers to look at the property and tell us what they thought it would be best used for,” Harwood said. “What we liked about Project^ was they had a mixture of uses.”

The project features housing, hotels and retail space. The budget is still being finalized, but could be anywhere between $75 and 150 million. Harwood said the university chose to lease to a private developer to avoid paying for the construction in full.

The Romania Lot, between Walnut and Orchard streets, is currently used as storage for Campus Planning and Facility Management and parking.

Harwood said that over time the university could potentially make money off the property as the developer continues to pay rent on the property, adding that leasing to private developers is common at many universities.

“University Village, if that were to come to fruition, would transform that underutilized asset into something that is going to be producing revenue for the university, revenue for the city,” Harwood said. “It’s going to be making a much nicer sort of front door entry from the I-5 into Eugene.”

Negotiations between the developer, university and the city are planned to begin around July 1. They could take anywhere from three to six months because the university has to get approval from the board of trustees as well.

One of the design challenges at Romania Lot was the historic showroom: the white and blue building with a sloped roof. The showroom has been a registered local historical site with the National Park Service since 2011 and needed to be preserved in the new design.

Harwood said Project^ incorporated the showroom into their initial design to be a food court, or a “food showroom” instead of a car showroom; however, these designs could change before construction.

Campus Planning and Facility Management conducted a framework vision project analysis in 2015 that looked at all the land controlled by the university to see where future classrooms or campus buildings could be developed.

After this analysis, the Romania Lot was deemed not an essential space for the university to grow campus, so the university decided to look into leasing the land to a private developer.

In 2018, the university began reaching out to different developers to pitch what they would like to build in the space. Project^ was chosen as the conditional candidate and will be the official partner once negotiations are done and the plans are green-lighted.

“I think it’s a win for the university, I think it’s a win for the neighborhood, and I think it’s a win for the city,” Harwood said. “It upgrades a piece of Franklin Boulevard and provides additional amenities in the community.”