UO Foundation Board tells staff to drop EWEB redevelopment scheme

5/19/2015 update: 

Ed Russo has the story in the RG, here:

In a shock to Eugene’s civic leaders, the University of Oregon Foundation has dropped out as master developer for the Eugene Water & Electric Board riverfront property.

A foundation board on Monday unanimously instructed foundation staff to stop pursuing acquisition of the 17 acres owned by the utility on the east edge of downtown, said Jay Namyet, the foundation’s chief investment officer.

The board made the decision because there are too many financial questions about the redevelopment, he said.

“There are (financial) risks that we identified over time, none of which is serious enough on its own to cause us alarm,” Namyet said. “But because there are numerous ones in aggregate, they cause us to feel that the risks are too extreme.”

I can understand why Eugene’s leaders would be shocked by a sensible decision from the Foundation, which this is. The Foundation’s job is to manage donations to UO, not get sucked into Eugene’s land redevelopment and politics. I wonder what the real story here is – the Foundation staff apparently got way ahead of the board on this. Good for the board for reigning them in.

FWIW the foundation finally released their IRS 990 report for the FY ending June 30, 2014 on Friday, here. It was the last possible day the IRS allowed, after two extensions. They’ve cut way back on the information they put in their annual reports as well. This salary information is a bit dated, as of Dec 31 2013:

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2/16/2015 update: Is the UO Foundation’s EWEB bid an investment, or part of a track meet bid?

I don’t know, and it’s going to be hard to find out. Ed Russo has the latest on the bid process in the RG, here:

Utility and city leaders hope the property can be developed in a “transformative” way for Eugene, [Jeannine Parisi of EWEB] said. “There are high hopes that this will be the biggest change to downtown Eugene in 100 years,” she said.

[Jay Namyet, UO Foundation CIO] said UO Foundation officials want to create a one-of-a-kind commercial and housing area that will benefit Eugene and the university.

The EWEB property could become a special place, he said, perhaps similar to the “urban chic” Pearl District in downtown Portland.

Such a place could attract young entrepreneurs to Eugene and faculty to the university, Namyet said.

But the foundation will not buy the property if it can’t profit from the development, he said.

These mixed motives – plus the athletic motive, if indeed housing on this land was part of the failed 2019 or the upcoming 2021 IAAF bids – are going to raise some interesting questions about the foundation trustees’ “fiduciary duty”.


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