Health Department headquarters nears completion

November 30, 2018

The new Health Department headquarters is just weeks away from completion.
A fresh coat of “Delightful Yellow” paint brightens the walls of a workout room nine stories above downtown Portland. A break room is coming together where, just last month, the neck of a 189-foot crane was still protruding.

Long hallways toned “Buxton Blue” lead, floor-by-floor, to open office space overlooking the Steel, Broadway and Fremont bridges, and the slow-flashing sign tower at Union Station “Go. By. Train.”

Examination rooms beckon with walls painted “Chic Lime” and “Stonington Gray.” A lab smells of fresh-laid vinyl flooring. Islands of shelves are wired with outlets and topped with epoxy resin countertops.

Windows line every wall, shoulder-to-shoulder. Overhead, cooling pipes and rows of radiant heat panels snake through the ceiling, supporting the building’s LEED certification. Speakers emit the adjustable whirr of sound-cancelling white noise.

As early as next week, general construction contractor JE Dunn and the architecture firm, ZGF Architects, will begin moving furniture into Multnomah County’s new Health Department headquarters in Old Town-Chinatown. That milestone comes less than two years after breaking ground on the $94 million project. They plan to hand over the keys to Multnomah County in January 2019.

“We’re excited,” said Health Department co-interim director Vanetta Abdellatif. “This is a big step up for us. It will be nice to have a building that was made for us, that we can grow into.”

Health Department headquarters nearing completion in November, 2018.

Abdellatif joined co-interim director Wendy Lear and Oregon Reps. Mitch Greenlick, Alissa Keny-Guyer, Sheri Malstrom and Andrea Salinas this week to tour the nearly completed Gladys McCoy Health Department Headquarters.

The nine-story, 159,000-square foot building will house the County’s STD and HIV clinics, Tuberculosis services, a central lab and pharmacy, administrative offices, communicable disease services, and emergency health response. Staff will move in over four weekends in April.

The project has posed some construction challenges, said Tom Heger, project director for JE Dunn. Paramount was space. The new building’s west wall is just 11 inches from its western neighbor, the Bud Clark Commons. “Everyday they have 500 clients coming and going,” he said. “So it was about keeping them safe near the construction.”

The project also posed some opportunities. Gene Sandoval, the designer who leads ZGF’s work, pushed for all-gender bathrooms, which his firm had installed in the ZGF offices 10 years earlier. Staff soon embraced the concept.  

“We fought for that,” he said. “That’s the direction things are going.”

The building’s main entrance opens from tall glass doors to an airy, windowed hall that runs the length of the building. Soon art will go up: portraits of the late County Chair Gladys McCoy, walls tiled with porcelain and mosaic, and printed silks laminated in glass, the work of Brooklyn-based Francesco Simeti. Recessed white lights will shine over the art from above.

“I love that when people get out of the Greyhound bus, or off the MAX at night, they’ll walk by and see that,” Rep. Keny-Guyer said.

[View more photos of the latest work on the Gladys McCoy Health Department Headquarters project here]