For the first time in 115 years, there are no students this fall on the Northeast Portland campus of Concordia University.
The lawns are brown. Doors locked. Windows closed and dark. Parking lots empty. Athletic field vacant.
A pedestrian walking though these 24 acres absent of humanity can’t help thinking: “Something is wrong here.” Indeed. Was it some kind of high-tech bomb that saved the buildings but wiped out the people? Nope. The local board of trustees pulled the plug quickly without notice earlier this year, ending CU’s history at the end of the spring 2020 semester.
Its strongest programs were educating teachers and nurses. It competed athletically with small, mostly church-related Pacific Northwest colleges in several sports and toward the end of its life ranked as a national power among small-college women’s soccer programs.
Many of the 1200 or so undergraduates who lived on campus at the time were leery of the internet-education plans. They felt that s significant part of the Concordia was participating in campus life. They feared that a blizzard of on-line degrees might denigrate their on-campus degrees. Closure of the entire institution was never even perceived as a possibility.
The first decade of the century brought impressive changes to the campus, including a grand three-story library, new housing and a mini-stadium with an all-weather surface for soccer and baseball. The campus definitely was "moving up" in spirit and physical quality.
George H. White Library
What becomes of the 24-acre campus? It is for sale by the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, a financial services arm of the Missouri Synod in St. Louis. It could be a turn-key purchase for a small college, but in this era, small colleges are facing tough times. The internet as a high-education savior is a bumpier road than expected.
The short answer is that nothing will happen quickly. Changed uses could require slow and costly city land-use zone changes from the current “campus institution” zone. What happens to the debt on recent campus additions is anybody’s guess.