'Civic campus' mooted for downtown Forest Grove block
A downtown block that is almost entirely owned by the City of Forest Grove could become a "civic campus" if city voters are willing to approve public funding for facility upgrades.
The Forest Grove City Council is mulling a general obligation bond measure, which could be placed on the ballot as soon as next May, that would pay for an enlarged and improved police station.
After reviewing several possible sites, and having a design working group consider four finalists, the city appears to have settled on the existing site at 2102 Pacific Ave. — although, councilors heard from an architect Monday, June 11, it is possible that the police facility could use up other parts of the city-owned block, whether for a new building or for parking lots.
"There is ample room to be able to (build) on the existing site," said Scott Moore of Portland-based design firm Mackenzie, a project consultant. "I think one of the things that we're kind of looking at, just from a fit perspective, is just general building placement and orientation. … And depending upon the direction of the building placement, you could suggest a number of different design strategies to respond to."
The city spent about $650,000 earlier this year to buy up a vacant house and disused industrial property on the southeast corner of the block. Moore showed the council some site plans Monday in which those buildings would be razed and parking lots constructed in their place.
The block is also home to Forest Grove Fire & Rescue and the Forest Grove Public Library. While the fire station is officially co-owned by the Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District, which is technically a separate entity from the city, the entire block is otherwise owned outright by City Hall.
And moving administrative offices onto the block is a possibility, though it was discussed only briefly in Monday's council work session. City Hall is located just a couple blocks away at 1924 Council St.
City Manager Jesse VanderZanden suggested that looking at relocating administrative offices to the block should wait until the city has a clearer idea of what it wants to do with its police station.
"Let's figure out the police equation first from a cost perspective and a site location perspective, and then we'll begin design — and then we can also figure out the admin part, I think, after that," VanderZanden said.
A final site plan is far from being determined. Accordingly, it is unclear exactly how large a money measure the city would be asking voters to approve, likely either at the May or November election in 2019.
Depending on how the police facility is configured, Moore said, it could end up shaping "kind of a more holistic civic campus, so to speak, on the block."
Police Chief Janie Schutz said one improvement she would like to see is more signage. Right now, there is no prominent display on or around the downtown station marking it as the home of the Forest Grove Police Department. She suggested she would like it to be more obvious from Pacific Avenue that the building is the police department.
"I would like a sign," Schutz said. "We haven't had a sign at this department, I don't think ever — at least not since I've been here. I just think Pacific's our main drag. It's a proud thing to have: 'Here's our police department.'"
No formal decisions were made at Monday's public work session, although there appeared to be a consensus among council members that they support using the existing site for a new or expanded police facility.
VanderZanden said the council will be presented with more detailed concept options at future meetings.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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