Today Dean Mackenzie's dream has been realized. While the university can still be accessed by narrow, winding roads, the Portland Aerial Tram now also ferries hundreds of OHSU students, employees, and patients to the top of the hill every day. The modern health and science university that Mackenzie envisioned sits prominently upon the Portland skyline and continues to carry on the mission of teaching, healing, and research. The campus currently contains more than five million square feet of building space on the hill. Many of the buildings can be accessed via the ninth floor, where a series of hallways and sky bridges link the facilities.
The university has four campuses: Marquam Hill, West, and Schnitzer Campuses, and the South Waterfront Central District. OHSU also occupies space beyond its campuses, for a total of more than seven million square feet of space on approximately 420 acres. Peter O. Kohler, M.D., who served as OHSU’s president from 1988 to 2006, declared in 1990 that the university had a “96,000 square mile campus,” due to its campuses, collaborations, and connections throughout the state of Oregon.
Portland Aerial Tram and the South Waterfront Campuses
As OHSU prepared to enter the new millennium, it was clear that the topography and accessibility issues of Marquam Hill constrained future expansion projects. In 2001, OHSU purchased property along the South Waterfront which provided the university a location that would allow for continued growth in Portland. After years of planning, the Portland City Council in 2003 adopted the Marquam Hill Plan that included the development of a suspended aerial tram to link the hill and waterfront. Owned, built, and maintained by the City of Portland, with operations overseen by OHSU, the tram was one of the most controversial public works projects in Portland’s recent history, due in large part to higher than anticipated development costs as well as protests from residents of the Corbett-Terwilliger and Lair Hill neighborhoods, who raised concerns related to anticipated lowered property costs and invasion of privacy due to the tram passing over their homes.
The Tram began ferrying passengers between the two campuses in December of 2006. Development continues on the South Waterfront Campus as well as on the separate Schnitzer Campus, a short distance to the north. In 2004, the Schnitzer family donated a nineteen acre parcel of riverside property to allow OHSU to build a future education and research campus just north of the South Waterfront Central District.