Maybe Battle Ground
The folks in the Portland parks bureau who want to turn part of Mount Tabor Park over to Warner Pacific College (and to who knows which developer mammals) are doubtlessly reconnoitering to formulate Plan B. Surely they'll have another route to get to the same basic result (no doubt a long-term lease -- a specialty of parks honcho Robin Grimwade). Meanwhile, the outraged neighbors of the park, and the rest of us, get a chance to look at the bigger picture.
It's pretty clear what's going on. WP is singing the same song that OHSU did before the city foolishly built them an aerial tram [rim shot]: "We need more land, and if we don't get it, we'll have to leave Portland." But instead of having Neil Goldschmidt to throw his considerable weight around on the subject, as OHSU did, WP has...
In the words of Steve Earle, "goodbye's all we got left to say."
This web page by WP, telling their side of the Mount Tabor Park story, is instructive. It's not just that they need a new gym -- they say they need to more than triple the size of their student body to stay afloat:
In order to maintain viability in today’s competitive private higher education market, WP must grow to a level of 1200 traditional 4-year undergraduate students. Current enrollment is around 350 students. Colleges need to enroll a critical mass of students to gain the advantage of economies of scale for the courses and services provided to students. The proposed addition to campus allows for more amenities that will attract today’s college-bound high school students. New facilities will enable recruitment and retention of students and student-athletes. Recreational and Athletic Facilities are among the top amenities considered when today’s health-conscious students are looking at colleges.Even taking this position at face value, bringing in 850 more students to a campus that currently services only 350 is going to require a whole lot more than a new roller rink. And unless a large chunk of the surrounding land is somehow going to wind up in the college's hands, it's hard to see how such an expansion could hope to work. Hello, reality check! There isn't enough available land in that neighborhood to make WP more than three times the school it already is -- is there? If they're really serious about their expansion ambitions, looking seriously at moving to a new location has to be part of the process.
Not helping their cause much with their current neighbors is WP's thinly veiled threat to sell its campus to a condo developer:
If Warner Pacific is not able to expand its current campus, the college would likely try to relocate and would be forced to liquidate its current holdings in order to finance the move. WPC would have to sell its land for the highest and best use which could be residential development.Now there's a bully line straight out of the Scone playbook. And here's where the city, as usual, has got it backward. Instead of selling them park and recreation land, the city ought to be looking into buying WP's property out for that very same purpose. Why not expand Mount Tabor Park, and let WP build itself a fine new campus out in the burbs somewhere? Nothing personal to the WP folks, but further constricting the park facilities and handing the college prime land for an artificial turf soccer field -- by sale or lease -- is exactly the wrong move.