Building a new headquarters for the Multnomah County Health Department is a high priority for the County. There is an urgent need to replace an aging, inefficient and undersized building and meet the increasing demand for health services. The current headquarters is housed in the 1923 McCoy Building at 426 S.W. Stark. This former retail and office space never designed to house administrative headquarters, medical clinics and the public health emergency command center. The county has sought to leave the site for nearly 14 years.

The county is working on a potential project on land next to the Bud Clark Commons near Union Station. The site on Northwest Sixth Avenue, between Hoyt and Irving streets, is accessible for health department clients and community members, and easy to reach by transit. Because of the location, the county can use $27 million that has been allocated for county facilities within the River District Urban Renewal Area.

Multnomah County has worked on a proposed development with the city of Portland Housing Bureau, which owns the property, the Portland Development Commission and other public agencies. Staff also met with Old Town/Chinatown Neighborhood Association and other stakeholders.

The site is, however, located on less than half a block and restricted to a 75-foot height limit. The county has learned through planning the design, and the configuration of what the department requires, that the proposed six-story building would increase the cost per square foot yet would still not provide adequate space for the staff.

Chair Deborah Kafoury has directed a team, led by an owner's representative, to consider options.  Among those is an amendment to the city code to raise the height limit to 105 feet. The city of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in March 2015 is producing a report on revising the height. In addition, the area eligible for floor-area-ratio and height bonuses, which now ends just south of the Block U, would be extended to include Block U.

This would allow the county to submit a design application for a new nine, to 10-story building.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability will present findings on the impact to the views to the Union Station Clock tower, as well as the economic, environmental, social and energy impacts. The city of Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission is tentatively schedule to hold a public hearing and consider the amendment on April 28. Any proposed ordinance would then go before the Portland City Council.

Headquarters include key staff

The Multnomah County Health Department serves all 748,000 county residents. It operates the largest safety net clinic system in Oregon: a federally qualified health center with 33 different primary care, school-based, dental and specialty clinic sites. The Department also is the Local Public Health Authority responsible for disease prevention, health promotion and public education.

Up to 350 health professionals who work in these areas will work at the new headquarters. This management team includes the Health Department director and deputy directors who lead Integrated Clinical Services, Nursing Practice, Community Health Services, Public Health and Community Initiatives, Business, Financial and Quality Services, Human Resources and Workforce Development, Mental Health and Addictions and the Multnomah County/Tri-County Health Officer.

Other employees are the dental director, public health nurses and epidemiologists devoted to disease investigations and control, to immunizations, tuberculosis and occupational health. Also, grant writers, analysts and information management and quality control specialists will be located at the site. Health records, electronic health records and a vaccine depot will be housed there.

The headquarters includes a pharmacy and specialty health clinic including STD/HIV/Hepatitis C and HIV Services. In addition, the county’s Emergency Preparedness and Response staff, who oversee the response to any public health emergency, will be housed there. 

The site of the new Multnomah County Health Department headquarters adjacent to Bud Clark Commons in Old Town/Chinatown.