The University of Oregon Foundation is planning a new building for scientific research, but in the process, its plans may destroy a nearby restaurant, Evergreen Indian Cuisine.
The UO’s newly announced billion-dollar project, the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, is billing itself as a great opportunity for undergrads to work in labs with professors and post-docs. The project will be funded primarily by a $500 million donation by Phil Knight and matched donor money.
But squarely in the path of the planned construction is Evergreen. The Best of Eugene award-winning Indian restaurant now faces an uncertain and unplanned future despite 10 years in its current location.
Usha Shaik, co-owner of the family business, says Evergreen signed a five-year lease in February and immediately began remodeling. “After we signed up, we got new booths, new tables and we got new tiles recently.” She says the tiles themselves cost almost $20,000. Altogether, Evergreen’s remodels since February have cost $50,000 to $60,000, Shaik says.
Evergreen, which leases directly from the University of Oregon Foundation, has always had a good relationship with the UO, Shaik says: “They always give us heads-up notice, and they always took care of us very well.”
That wasn’t the case with this recent plan, however. Shaik didn’t hear about the news till the day before it hit the press. She says she was told, “Don’t get shocked,” and to “wait until tomorrow.” The family didn’t find out what exactly could happen to their restaurant until they got their hands on The Register-Guard at 5 am the next morning, Oct. 18.
Tobin Klinger, senior director of Public Affairs Communications at UO, says that nothing about the building is finalized yet. He says the UO is in the “early stages” of working with people who own pieces of the property or have leases “to come up with mutually agreeable circumstances for the future, but we’re probably about a year out from putting shovels in the ground.”
Asked about any news for the businesses that will be affected by the construction, Klinger says, “All I can say is that we’re early in the process and we’re having those conversations with them.”
Shaik says she still isn’t sure what will happen to her restaurant, and as of press time, she still hasn’t heard anything else from the UO. Her biggest hope is that the school will give Evergreen a spot in the new building, but she would at least like to hear details about when construction will start and how Evergreen will be reimbursed for its five-year lease. “Otherwise we can’t do anything, and we have a huge family in the back; they work,” she says. “They don’t know what to do; they are sad because they can’t find a job because they are not educated. It would be the whole family out of a job.”
When asked about these options, Klinger says, “We’re way too early; we haven’t even started to think about specific plans.”
Shaik says she loves the current location where Evergreen gets plenty of extra business from students and during campus-related events. She says she even hopes that her young son, Goush, can someday attend the UO for a STEM degree, perhaps even in the new building.
But without more details from the UO, she says she doesn’t know what will happen to her family’s future in Eugene. “We haven’t been sleeping at all this week,” she says.