December 16, 2014

Hawthorne bridgehead south block

On Tuesday, Dec. 16 the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners heard preliminary recommendations on two possible sites for a new central courthouse and a financing strategy for the project. 

After a rigorous site selection process, which included evaluating 11 potential sites, the project’s executive team recommended the Hawthorne bridgehead south block downtown as a preferred site, with nearby Block 128 (currently a surface parking between the KOIN Tower and Marriott Hotel) as an alternate site.

The central courthouse executive team members explained to the board that the Hawthorne bridgehead site not only scored high in the site selection process, but is county-owned land. County ownership makes it a financially strong option for the estimated $250 - $260 million project.

The courthouse is an essential home for the county’s daily judicial operations and the current courthouse  does not meet seismic codes. It also suffers from serious safety and operational concerns, given its limitations on separating criminal defendants from judges and witnesses.

Block 128

“One of the biggest problems is the seismic risk,” said central courthouse project manager J.D. Deschamps at Tuesday’s briefing. “[The current courthouse] will likely collapse in a major earthquake and have major damage in a minor earthquake.”

On Thursday, Dec. 18 the board will vote on whether to approve both the preferred and alternate site recommendations and whether to authorize the first planning phase of the Major Facilities Capital Projects (FAC- 1) process. The latter is a county administrative procedure that ensures board approval of capital projects costing more than $1,000,000.

“I am delighted to see the community is attending,” said Commissioner Judy Shiprack of the strong presence of community members at Tuesday’s briefing. “Keep in mind if this were easy it would have happened 40 years ago... We have benefited from a tremendous amount of community outreach and community interest.”

Before Thursday’s vote, members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the agenda item. Members of the public who would like to address the board on this matter are encouraged to complete a public testimony form at least 15 minutes before the 9:30 a.m. meeting start time and give it to the Board Clerk.

The Dec. 18 board meeting will take place in the first floor board room of the Multnomah Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland.