Board approves next phase of Health Headquarters

June 29, 2016

Updated Thursday, July 7, 2016

Project manager Brett Taute (left) and Doug Obletz address the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

The Board of Commissioners on Thursday authorized $7.7 million to develop construction documents for the Gladys McCoy Health Department Headquarters. The approval comes as project managers sent final plans to the city of Portland for design review.

Headquarters project manager Brett Taute said the goals for the building are the same:  to replace the current headquarters on SW Stark with a modern, accessible and seismically safe building on NW Sixth between Hoyt and Irving.

The Gladys McCoy name, the same as the current headquarters, will transfer to the new site in honor of the late Gladys McCoy, the first African American Multnomah County Chair.

Plans call for a nine-story, 159,000 square foot building that is expected to bring at least 500 employees into the neighborhood in the rapidly transforming north end of Old Town-Chinatown.

The estimated cost for the project, based on early design documents and subcontractor budget pricing, is $92 million, including $12.1 percent in contingencies

But project managers told the Board of County Commissioners on June 28 that the boom in commercial and residential projects underway in Portland could slow the permitting process and drive up costs.

“The risk has to do with design, building permits and the astounding amount of development,’’ said Doug Obletz, of Shiels Obletz Johnsen. “All those construction cranes have produced escalation and some workforce availability issues.’’

The development boom is increasing the cost of some projects in the area up to 1.5 percent at a quarter, Obletz said. Construction workers are being drawn away from others by higher wages elsewhere. Obletz said the county’s construction manager/general contractor JE Dunn, is working to lock in steel, elevator and other rmaterials  to reduce costs.

The county is also working to recruit women and minority owned businesses in an effort to increase workforce diversity.

Slide of Health Department goals and objectives
A list of Health Department goals and objectives

A combination of funds and financing

Construction is expected to begin in early 2017, with project completion in 2019.

The county will pay for it through a combination of funds and financing. The land was acquired from the Portland Housing Bureau at no cost. Under state law, the county can use $26.9 million in River District tax increment financing through the Portland Development Commission. When the county settled on a location for its new Central Courthouse last year, the PDC voted to direct $9.5 million for the Hawthorne Bridge ramp relocation from that project to the Health Department Project.

Among the other highlights:

  • Energy efficiency: the project is a pilot with the Oregon Department of Energy in its use of passive solar energy and shading, with an estimated 30 percent energy savings over code compliance.
  • Seismic safety: the building is expected to survive an earthquake and be able to be repaired and reoccupied.
  • Neighborhood involvement: the county has engaged a committee of neighbors and stakeholders and will be working to maintain safety and livability throughout the project.

Commissioner Diane McKeel said she wants to publically acknowledge the project team for their work.

"They really understand what’s important to us as commissioners, the information and the process, so I really, really appreciate that,'' Commissioner McKeel said. "Just the due diligence needed around design review and they are really on it and I am confident we’ll be able to move forward as we’d like.''

Commissioner Judy Shiprack said that, "this board has been really aggressive in its building program.

"We came in at a time when some of the capital asset the county maintains were in horrible condition and the building we’re replacing here was Exhibit A."