UO’s Knight Campus takes shape

  • The Knight Campus construction continues with the skybridge nearing completion and glass going up on the outside of the complex across Franklin Boulevard from the University of Oregon.
    (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via TNS)

  • The backside of the Knight Campus along the millrace.
    (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via TNS)

  • The backside of the Knight Campus along the millrace. The waterway has been dammed and water is being pumped around the site as the work continues.
    (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via TNS)

By Jordyn Brown • The (Eugene) Register-Guard

The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact expected to open next year

In about eight months, the University of Oregon will open the new Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact — also known around Eugene as the Knight Campus — with an expanded footprint of nearly double the square footage than first introduced and expanded programs for students.

It’s a $1 billion project that has dominated the north end of campus since winter 2018, with nearly 400,000 square feet of modern, towering architecture coming into form along the busy Franklin Boulevard.

It’s one of more than 10 construction or remodel projects happening on UO’s campus this year — including some that already wrapped such as the new Tykeson Hall — and many students, faculty and others at UO still are unclear on what the construction is for or what it means for campus.

The goal of bringing the Knight Campus to UO is to have a major research-oriented center with scientific programs and innovation, particularly in areas such as origins of diseases and developing new technologies to improve medicine.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s still left to be done and what students and faculty can expect.

Campus expansion

The latest on the Knight Campus is that it will be taking up more real estate than originally expected.

Robert Guldberg, Knight Campus vice president and executive director, told the board of trustees at a Sept. 6 meeting that the campus now includes a third building. This third building will be constructed on a lot on the north side of the millrace, which is a slough or creek, behind the Franklin-facing Knight Campus buildings.

“One of the things I actually didn’t fully appreciate when I first came was that the original ask for $1 billion was really for the buildings you see on (the south) side of the millrace,” he said.

“At the time (the campus) was described as being three buildings — we combined two of those buildings into one, and that’s the current building that’s finishing up in June.”

But later there was an opportunity for UO to buy the lot on the other side of the millrace, which was home to a large parking lot before. The land cost $3.7 million. The lot was bought from the city of Eugene’s Urban Renewal Agency.

“That effectively allowed the vision to almost double in terms of the square footage from about 220,000 square feet to almost 400,000,” Guldberg told the board.

Last year, UO was planning a $1 million enhancement project to the short stretch of the millrace directly next to campus, including new bridges, a new boardwalk and environmental work to improve water quality.

The UO still plans to make these enhancements, according to Knight Campus spokesperson Zack Barnett.

Construction of the Knight Campus has been underway for nearly a year, but those who have driven down Franklin Boulevard lately likely have noticed the tall, new building sided with sleek, reflective glass and a modern skybridge spanning the six lanes of traffic.

This is the first of three Knight Campus buildings to come. It is 160,000 square feet, cost $225 million to construct and is scheduled to open in spring 2020.

Right now, there are about 150 trade workers on the site, and the UO expects to have about 100 more on site in the next few months, said spokesperson Kay Jarvis in an email.

More than 225,000 people-hours have been spent working on the site since construction started. The project is on budget and on schedule.

“Crews are currently adding exterior glass and working on a connector between the two towers that make up the first building,” Jarvis said.

The skybridge is another major addition that has finally come to form. It closed lanes of traffic for overnight work on the busy street for months to connect the two campuses. It is 190 feet long, weighs about 500 tons and will have a walking area 14 feet wide.

Once finished next spring, the skybridge will connect the Knight Campus to UO’s existing science building off Onyx Street and Franklin Boulevard, which will be used mostly by students and staff.

New hires, programs with collaboration at center

The Knight Campus is a major facility donated by Phil & Penny Knight, designed to give UO a facility focused on science and space to do innovative research.

As it nears time to open it to students and faculty, directors are working to add new programs, expand internship opportunities and bring more top-tier faculty into the fold.

Some significant additions coming to UO because of the Knight Campus already have been announced, including a bioengineering program and joint graduate programs with Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University.

The bioengineering program will prioritize neuroengineering and musculoskeletal engineering. Other areas of focus include precision medicine technology, predicting complex biological systems and synthetic biology/molecular engineering, according to the strategic plan.

Another goal is to draw graduate students to the Knight Campus, in part by offering joint graduate programs between the two other Oregon universities.

With OHSU, the program would be in biomedical engineering, which works alongside a $10 million grant the UO received this year to create a joint center in biomedical data science to detect and fight cancer and other diseases.

With OSU, the partnership will be in graduate bioengineering.

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