College, city leaders are digging innovative Fourth and Montgomery partnership
One thing is for sure, when Portland Community College’s dental clinic moves to downtown Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler is going to be first in line.
“I will undoubtedly be one of their number-one customers,” he said.
The seven-story Fourth and Montgomery Building will be finished for use by students and the mayor by fall 2020 at SW 4th Ave. and SW Montgomery St. The new building is a collaborative project between PCC, Portland State University, the City of Portland and Oregon Health & Science University. It will house PCC’s Dental Sciences Department, the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, PSU’s College of Education and the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
“We’re very excited for the move,” said Josette Beach, director of PCC’s Dental Sciences. “Having the ability to occupy space with these partners will offer students insight into a greater understanding of access and delivery of oral healthcare and health education to our community members. The location near PSU will provides an energy and connection to the city that we are excited to become a part of. We are hoping our dental clinic will provide services in an affordable way to those who otherwise might not have access.”
Construction has begun on the $104 million and 175,000-square-foot civic, education and health center. It will reside in a corridor already teeming with new construction of condo towers, mass transit lines, food offerings, community resources and entertainment venues.
PCC’s Dental Assisting and Dental Hygiene programs and its clinic will move from the Sylvania Campus to the third floor of Fourth and Montgomery. Both are high-demand career-technical training programs, which are capable of educating more than 100 students annually.
“When I moved to Portland the first thing I noticed is that we have a lot of bridges here,” said College President Mark Mitsui. “I think of our three institutions, and the City of Portland, as a bridge of opportunity. When we take a look at communities of color, and first-generation, low-income communities, and we see great jobs particularly in healthcare, our institutions will be key in bridging those together.”
Mitsui noted that part of the funding comes from a big investment from the community through the college’s voter-approved bonds and $51 million more in state bonds approved by Gov. Kate Brown in 2017. Additionally, education philanthropists Christine and David Vernier donated $1 million to create a fully equipped STEM training classroom in the new building.
“This project is an example of how local investment in higher education can open doors and create incredible opportunities,” Mitsui said.
Plus, the shared space will feature low-cost mental health services for the public, and ground-floor retail and restaurants.
“It creates a template for economic opportunity in our region,” Wheeler said. “I know this will be a big success. This is unlike any other partnership that I have been engaged in.”
Right in the center of it all will be PCC’s Dental Sciences Department. Its popular clinic, which was in the news last summer because a student spotted skin cancer on a patient and saved his life, serves as a teaching facility for students. It also offers low-cost oral healthcare services to about 2,000 patients a year.
And one of them will be Mayor Ted Wheeler.
“Mister Mayor, when our Dental Sciences and lab training center open up here we will reserve a chair just for you,” Mitsui smiled.