The group working to bring a medical college to the area has narrowed its search for a potential site for the school from an initial 31 locations down to six.
The Umpqua Valley Development Corp., a nonprofit organization formed last fall to help make the Southern Oregon Medical Workforce Center a reality, held a telephone conference call Monday to discuss the potential sites. Initially, five sites were identified:
- The vacant Kmart, 2757 NW Stewart Parkway, Roseburg
- The vacant Rite Aid in the 400 block of Southeast Jackson Street, along with the adjacent vacant lot that used to house Safeway
- Harvard Business Park: This has also been known as Harvard Medical Park and is located at 1813 W Harvard – on the corner of Harvard and Keady Court.
- Edenbower site: This is vacant property off the east end of Edenbower, just east of Stephens.
- Boulder property: This would be an extension of Boulder Drive, which is a “T” intersection off of Edenbower directly across from Evergreen Family Medicine.
During the conference call, state Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, who is an ex-officio board member, said he had another property he would like to add to the list. That property is what used to be Lindy’s Trading Post, located on Old Highway 99 south of Roseburg.
Leif said he met with an individual Monday who has plans to develop part of the property as a care center for people dealing with dementia. “I see some real possibilities there,” Leif said.
The board will now begin the process of conducting due diligence on the sites and comparing what each has to offer. Some of the basics that will be examined during this process include:
- Information from the owner, including a letter indicating a willingness to sell and their asking price/terms.
- Land use issues, including zoning.
- Environmental issues, including potential wetlands and threatened and endangered species.
- Transportation issues, including access points and possible traffic studies needed.
- Utilities, including water and sewer lines and their capacities.
- Telecommunication issues, including current and future services at the site, such as high-speed internet.
In July, the Legislature approved $10 million for the college, which would be operated by George Fox University and offer bachelor’s and advanced degrees in nursing, psychology, counseling, physical therapy and other fields.
People lobbying the legislature initially requested $15-20 million for the project, according to city documents.
Yet the college is not a certainty. Initial estimates put the price tag at upwards of $30 million, and not all of that has been secured. That’s where the UVDC, which was incorporated less than three months ago, comes in.
Last May, the City Council signed a memorandum of understanding with Oregonians for Rural Health, at the time the lead organization for the project, committing funds of up to $10 million. That memorandum was good for six months and has since expired, but city officials have said they are still fully behind the project.
The UVDC is composed of many of the same people who have been behind the project from early on. Local business owner Richard Heard is president of the UVDC Board of Directors and Kelly Morgan, CEO of Mercy Medical Center, is vice president.
Other board members include Steve Loosley, Chairman of the Umpqua Community College Board of Directors; Linda Samek, provost at George Fox University; and Lisa Yop, Roseburg VA Health Care System.
The board members say the center will have a profound impact on this region on a number of levels. For starters, its total economic benefit to the area would be nearly $40 million over a 20-year span, one economic impact study has calculated.
In addition to providing an economic boost to the region, the medical hospital would address an acute and increasing shortage of nurses and medical assistants willing to work in rural areas like Roseburg.
To help secure the remaining funding needed for the center, the board awarded a project management contract to the public relations firm Pac/West Communications.
Ryan Tribbett of Pac/West Communications, who helped facilitate Monday’s meeting, said the bringing everything together for the college is a complicated task that involves many moving parts. For example, the size of the college campus and what it will look like is to some degree dependent on what the curriculum will entail, he said.
“All these questions are lingering. Until we know what George Fox will do we don’t know how much land we need,” Tribbett said. “Until we really drill down on the programming, we won’t know how much space they need.”
A timeline for beginning construction is also a bit of a moving target, he said, because each site is different and presents a different set of challenges that could affect construction costs and timelines, he said.
The ultimate goal is to have a site chosen and as much of the groundwork as possible done before the spring of 2021 when the state is supposed to issue bonds to raise the $10 million appropriated by the Legislature.