Lawmakers fund renovations of University and Villard halls

This article first appeared in Around the O on June 30.

The Oregon Legislature approved funding for the University of Oregon’s capital construction request before closing out the 2021 legislative session.

The Heritage Project will receive $58.5 million in bond funding to renovate University and Villard Halls, the UO’s two founding buildings that together make up one of only 17 National Historic Landmarks in Oregon. The buildings are more than 150 years old, and the funding will cover updated accessibility to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, improved and more efficient heating and cooling systems, modern classrooms, and essential seismic upgrades.

Current and former UO students and faculty members who have taken classes or taught in the buildings shared concerns about interior conditions with legislators as they considered the capital construction funding request. Advocates shared phrases like “miserable places to be in cold or hot weather” and “upgrades are needed to match other facilities on campus.”

“We are thrilled that this funding has been secured and we can update these two historical buildings to better serve our students, faculty and staff,” said Christine Thompson, UO’s director of campus planning. “We will take the next few months to work out the logistics and prepare for project initiation in the fall.”

As part of the renovation, the university will consider ways to contextualize the building’s history of University Hall, which was renamed last year as part of the effort to remove names associated with racist beliefs or history.

The Heritage Project is anticipated to be completed by 2025.