OMSI Workshop Summary

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Bullitt Grant report web portal form text

Most significant Accomplishment (1500 characters)Describe in one concise paragraph the most significant accomplishment that resulted from this grant. This paragraph is the most important part of the final report and will be read by the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. In this paragraph, please use the third person when referring to your organization, as if you are an outside consultant reporting to the Foundation.


OMSI’s most significant accomplishment was to deepen the alignment of the OMSI Redevelopment project’s major stakeholders around the concept of integrated district systems. The funding enabled this by affording the infrastructure team the space to develop a “straw man” concept that unlocked a rich amount of world-class expert validation and advice across the two parallel series of workshops (utilities + digital integration). Crucially, the workshops demonstrated that integrated district systems deployed in the OMSI location have the potential to deliver outsize benefits across the four mission pillars laid down by OMSI’s Board: Education, Sustainability, Community, and Revenue.

In addition, the Bullitt-funded straw-man development process inspired two of the infrastructure team members to form a new venture, InfraCenters, LLC, and spend approximately $100,000 of personnel time, at risk, developing a systems performance and financial model that demonstrated the likely commercial feasibility of the strawman concept. Combined, the strawman, workshops, and preliminary financial model created the positive stakeholder response that, in turn, informed an OMSI senior staff decision to allow InfraCenters, LLC to begin preparing an agreement to undertake the next stage of the project, the engineered feasibility and system sensitivity study.

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Lessons Learned (2500 characters)Describe what lessons were learned. The Foundation is interested in lessons drawn from successes and failures alike. What strategies worked that might be replicated elsewhere? What approaches fell short of expectations, and why?


District Scale over Building Scale. There was expert consensus that OMSI’s ambitious performance goals will be more easily attained with district-scale infrastructure.
  • Mimic Natural Systems. Infrastructure systems should be modeled after their analog natural systems
  • Think Circular systems. Many of the systems being considered are circular in nature and should be designed with this in mind
  • Fractal, nested systems. Decentralized district-scale systems are likely to prove more resilient then the current business-as-usual centralized utility systems in the event of natural disasters, and under normal operations will be able to help optimize the larger system.
  • Systems need to balance. All systems need to “balance loads” and define the “sources & sinks” in order to properly map the web of interactions between systems.
  • Impact capital is key. The lower capital cost of impact investment offers new ways to front-load needed capital expenditures and will be key for scaling and replicating district infrastructure.
  • Phased development and programming matters. Different infrastructure systems have different sensitivities to loads and service requirements. District business model success will, in part, be dependent on management of the building programs and sizes during each phase. Early scenario planning to identify various options will be critical to multi-phase success.
  • Equipment Space and Conduits. OMSI should provide space to house equipment and conduits to link these spaces making it easy to deploy the latest technology.
  • Agile development not Waterfall planning. Achieving OMSI’s aspirational performance goals will require inter-system coordination and ongoing optimization over time.
  • Equity is a core element of excellence. The data and services need to be equitably distributed and available. All the groups prioritized the critical importance of designing the infrastructure and the data systems with equity in mind.
  • Remember the people. All of this engineering and technology is being considered for the benefit of PEOPLE!
  • Remember the data. Optimizing across systems and understanding externalities is best done with both objective and subjective data.
  • Remember privacy. Data collection and use policies need to ensure it is clear what data is being collected and the purposes to which it is being put. Personal data should not be held by OMSI but by visitors and requested through when needed.

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Overall Health (2500 characters)

Describe the overall health of the organization. The Foundation is interested in the strength and involvement of the board, significant changes to staff, and size and involvement of the organization's membership, and how that relates to the most significant accomplishment you described above.


2020 began with the greatest levels of engagement in OMSI programs in our history, and it is ending with extraordinary challenges for our institution and our community. We implemented a Resiliency Plan for the organization based on our next 5-Year Strategy and our focus on equity and accessibility. Hard financial decisions had to be made early and early on we saw a 45% reduction in staff. Despite these challenges OMSI has continued to deliver on our mission in the community and advanced key projects.

2020 saw the completion of our first 5-Year plan moving us toward our 20-year vision and the approval of the next 5 year strategic plan by the board. The plan includes investments in digital education, climate change programming, strengthened commitment to equity and inclusion, and property development.

Within two weeks of closure, we began providing childcare to 600 local area first responders and essential personnel. We also began providing programming online, creating new ways to deliver on our mission and meet the needs of students and educators. Our adult-oriented Science Pubs moved to a virtual format and has higher attendance than ever.

We shifted in-person outreach programs to new web-based activities, live-streamed OMSI science assembly programs, educational videos, and social media content to help keep students socially connected and engaged. We will continue to add virtual programming to support established partners focusing on communities underserved in STEAM education.

During Fall/Winter 2020, we are offering in-person programs to at-risk students who are in the greatest need of distance learning support. OMSI Homeroom is welcoming up to 120 students weekly, in a peer-to-peer learning environment to complete daily school work and engage in OMSI STEAM experiences. OMSI Homeroom is offered for free or at reduced rates and we are working with local schools to reach the students most in need of our support.

Throughout the year the OMSI board has remained deeply involved in the organization with a focus on financial sustainability. As we have continuously provided financial reforecasts to the board the organization has been able to be responsive to ever changing conditions. Although the board's work has been largely focused on fiscal health, committee work has continued as well. Currently board giving to the organization is at 100% showing the commitment of our trustees.

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Financial Status (1500 characters)

Review the budget information and funding plan from the application submitted to the Foundation and describe the organization's general financial status. Please explain any major discrepancies from the information submitted in the application. Please do not submit a financial statement. -----------------------------------------------

OMSI entered the current pandemic crisis on the strongest financial position in the history of the organization. Over the past year OMSI management has responded to the crisis by managing costs (initial staff layoffs at 45%), successfully maintaining contributed revenue and driving earned revenues with specific community education programs. In addition, OMSI has received several CARES Act funding awards, both grants and PPP loans. These loans have significantly helped stabilize the organization’s financial reserves and maintained operations. Throughout the year, the team has employed quarterly budgeting reforecasting to carefully and quickly manage operational expenses to meet changing demand, stabilizing operational net income and cash balances. Looking to the coming financial year (starting June 1, 2021), management is planning for continued operational stability and return to growth.

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (1500 characters)

If applicable, how did this project engage in Diversity, Equity, or Inclusion activities?


The award announcement by Bullitt in early April allowed OMSI to include the grant as leverage in their successful Metro 2040 Equitable Development grant application. OMSI was then able to take into account their new Native American partnerships, specifically around physical integration of the district utilities core (the district “InfraCenter”) working with the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, as well as with the Waterfront Education Park project co-led by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

The ability to participate remotely made the charrettes much more affordable and accessible to a much larger number of people, who came from across Portland, the United States, and Europe, including many people who wouldn’t have been able to participate otherwise. This also allowed OMSI to access a wider variety of viewpoints, expertise, and experience. For example, OMSI had the budget and time to identify and invite We All Rise, a Portland-area equitable development consultancy, as stakeholders in the workshop series.

The virtual nature of the workshops allowed broader conceptual and expert inclusion. For example, the addition of a Circular Economy track to the workshops significantly contributed to OMSI’s analysis of the “Core 4” infrastructure systems. By the final charette, almost 100 people, from over 60 organizations, donated their time to participate in at least one of the workshops, providing OMSI exceptional value for Bullitt’s $50k investment.

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Outcomes (1000 characters each)

For each outcome you provided in your grant application, the original outcome text you provided (up to 250 characters) is shown below. Underneath each, please describe the most notable successes, failures, and unanticipated consequences you experienced. If your grant was for General Support, no outcomes will appear and you should leave these fields blank.


Outcome 1: “External stakeholders aligned and core group formed”

Actual Anticipated Outcome 1 (in full): The primary workshop funded by this grant successfully forged a consensus around a shared vision of the OMSI District development. Out of that consensus, we recruited a core group of stakeholder representatives to advise and inform the planning, building, operations, and maintenance of the district itself. As a result of this new consensus and core group, OMSI was able to recruit participation in the district’s equitable development plan while further reducing the projected total cost/sf of the district redevelopment as well as operations and maintenance, as compared to a go-it-alone scenario.


Outcome #1 Evaluation: With the success of these Bullitt-funded workshops, OMSI staff have authorized the pursuit of integrated district utilities. The rationale is simple: integrated district systems offer an unparalleled opportunity for achieving the OMSI mission across all four core principles: education, sustainability, community, and revenue. With the momentum from the Bullitt grant award, OMSI and its partner, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, won the largest-ever Metro 2040 Equitable Development grant, totalling $750,000. This 18-month planning effort has created a standing multi-stakeholder core group to oversee the integrated planning of the Center for Tribal Nations and the Waterfront Education Park both of which will be served by integrated district utilities.

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Outcome 2: “Planning dollars and municipal entitlements secured and aligned with vision”

Anticipated Outcome 2: The resulting plans from the Bullitt-funded workshop and pre-workshop study period--as well as the demonstrated commitment of the community--allowed the project team to raise the balance of the planning dollars required for the OMSI Redevelopment Project. Supplemental studies funded by these new monies allowed the project to do the necessary engineering assessments to enable Central City Master Plan approval for the platting, rights of way, and zoning required to deliver the high level of sustainability and inclusion we seek.


Outcome #2 Evaluation:

Merely the awarding of this grant and the pre-workshop commitments of OMSI provided an important signal that helped to secure community support for the work. That support came from the City of Portland, Metro, and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and resulted in $750,000 in additional planning dollars. These planning dollars are now funding a 5-month stakeholder listening period, led by ATNI, to engage local, Oregon, Northwest, and national tribes and inter-tribal organizations. It will also create two tribal advisory committees, one for design and one for investment and participation that will help advise the 18-month planning process. The entitlement process (a formal statement of community support), specifically OMSI’s request for modification of the Central City Master Plan, has also incorporated workshop-informed input from the infrastructure team as well as input from the Metro Grant steering committee.

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Outcome 3: “Impact joint ventures formed to scale the OMSI model”

Anticipated Outcome 3: The innovations developed during the pro-bono work period and the Bullitt-funded grant led to a series of joint ventures formed to deliver patient capital to critical projects on the OMSI Redevelopment district and then replicate them across Portland. The InfraCenter concept, the EV bus charging solution, and the district micropayments platform all attracted investment dollars allowing OMSI to further reduce its up-front capital costs while expanding the positive social and environmental impact of the overall effort.


Outcome #3 Evaluation:

The Bullitt workshop did inspire the creation of an impact joint venture to deliver the core elements of the integrated district utilities to the OMSI District: energy, water, thermal, mobility, and digital (including micropayments). InfraCenters, LLC was created by SERA Architects and Long Haul Capital Group after they self-funded a financial study that demonstrated district utility potential to deliver sufficient returns to impact equity investors and market-rate debt. InfraCenters, LLC has since begun discussions with Portland General Electric (the local electric utility) and Tri-Met (the local transportation authority), the City of Tigard, and City of Roses Reclamation project and are negotiating MOUs for additional InfraCenter locations. InfraCenters, LLC is now actively recruiting equity and debt investors, and finding significant interest in the district utility approach. Unfortunately, the area’s voters rejected a measure that would have potentially funded bus electrification.

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