Multnomah County Commissioners approved $9.4 million for design work for the new central courthouse on Dec. 17. A groundbreaking for the courthouse is planned for September 2016, with heavy construction starting in early 2017 and project completion in 2020.
Before the vote, County Chair Deborah Kafoury recounted recent progress on the $290 - $300 million project. “We’ve selected a site, we’re starting the design, we’ve hired an architect and contractor, and we’ve got a lot of the funding allocated… It’s been 45 years and 26 studies. Other folks couldn’t do it… I’m just so proud of our board and our partners in this effort.”
The new 17-story courthouse will be built on county-owned land at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge. Commissioner Judy Shiprack, a champion of the project along with Chair Kafoury, commented on the significance of the vote. “We have true momentum towards building a new, efficient, and safe courthouse.”
“The project is huge, complex and expensive,” Commissioner Shiprack noted. “But this board is relentlessly committed to the success of the project.”
The board approved a FAC-1 report that documents what will be included in the 445,000 square foot building. Four high volume courts for traffic, parking, landlord/tenant, and small claims cases will be included, along with offices for the district attorney. No underground parking will be included and the project will not include a tunnel to the justice center, since most in-custody defendants are transferred from Inverness Jail, not the downtown jail.
The board also approved a resolution that will allow the county to collect funds for approved project costs from the state of Oregon, a funding partner.
“I want to thank our project team, presiding Judge Waller and our legislative partners for their commitment to this project,” said Commissioner Shiprack.
“A courthouse is a busy, functional building that does the everyday work of the public safety system,” she continued. “But it is also a visual statement of our community’s dedication to justice.”
County residents will get a first look at the proposed design for the new courthouse in March. County commissioners expressed enthusiasm in seeing the project move toward construction in the next year.
“We’re ready to grab shovels and help if it’s necessary,” Commissioner Jules Bailey said.
Commissioner Shiprack added that “Commissioner McKeel and I [who leave office at the end of 2016] will be especially vigilant to make sure we have a groundbreaking next September.”
For more information, visit the courthouse project website.