On Thursday, April 9, the Board of County Commissioners was updated on the results of extensive due diligence and public outreach performed on the county-owned Hawthorne Bridgehead preferred-site and block 128 (parking lot between the KOIN Tower and the Marriott Hotel) alternate-site for a future Central Courthouse. The board is scheduled to select the courthouse site at their meeting on April 16.
The purpose of the due diligence was to identify fatal flaws, risks, issues with neighboring buildings, public safety risks and next steps for the multi-million dollar project. Based on reports from technical experts, project team members reported Thursday that neither the preferred nor alternate-site has any fatal flaws and are suitable for a future central courthouse.
The Hawthorne Bridgehead preferred-site remains the project team’s recommendation for the Central Courthouse project.
Members of the Central Courthouse project team and Communications Office presented more than three months worth of study on the feasibility of the preferred and alternate site.
In all, the due diligence included: two phases of environmental assessment, geotechnical investigation, review of seismic and structural impacts and traffic/transit and parking impacts.
It also included a summary of stakeholder and public input collected from an online survey, two open houses, and interviews.
The county’s owner representative and president of Day CPM Mike Day explained that unused greenspace just north of the preferred site serves as a natural staging area during construction and that traffic, geotechnical and environmental reports did not reveal any red flags.
“Environmental due diligence on both sites didn’t come back with anything conclusive that we have hazardous material or issues and concerns with either site. As part of due diligence and best practices we have money set aside in case we find anything during construction,” said Day. “The new courthouse is not expected to alter downtown traffic.”
Communications coordinator Mike Pullen summarized public input and stakeholder outreach performed in the past three months.
“When it comes to the preferred-site what people liked was that it’s a central location, it’s highly visible and a good value (since the site is county-owned land),” explained Pullen. “When it comes to concerns it was primarily impact to adjacent businesses.”
Pullen explained that neighboring properties for both sites were interviewed and concerns identified, including the Veritable Quandary Restaurant next to the preferred site. Key concerns were ensuring the continuity of their operations during construction and ensuring that construction did not damage adjacent buildings. Mike Day explained current best practices for protecting adjacent buildings during high rise construction projects.
In December 2014 the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners expressed a commitment to perform more public outreach before the final site selection decision in 2015 and to work with adjacent property owners and businesses to address concerns as much as possible.
On Thursday, Commissioner Loretta Smith and members of the board commended public outreach and due diligence efforts.
“Initially, one of the biggest concerns that I had was around public outreach. I am very impressed with the level of public outreach that you have done,” said Commissioner Smith.
On Thursday, April 16 the board will make a final decision on the site for the Central Courthouse. There will be an opportunity for public comment before the board votes at their regularly scheduled meeting on April 16 at approximately 9:45 a.m. in the boardroom.