Celebrating community's new 'home'
A decade ago Wood Village City Council meetings were often held before an audience of stuffed animals.
Tucked away in an old, out of the way building, city leaders had difficulty getting people to show up and participate. So as a joke, now Mayor Scott Harden said, councilors would occasionally place their fuzzy constituents on the empty seats.
"We needed to find a way to encourage people not only to come to meetings, but to have a space of their own," Harden said.
Those desires were realized during a grand ribbon cutting Friday afternoon, Sept. 17, in front of the shining new Wood Village City Hall, fronting Donald L Robertson City Park at 24300 N.E. Halsey St.
"I am very humbled and nearly speechless to be here in front of this new building," said City Manager Greg Dirks.
The ceremony had city leaders read dedications to the Indigenous People, local veterans, and in commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month. There was food, mariachi music, dancing, prizes, tours of the new building. Representatives from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde performed a drum prayer song for the occasion, and gifted council a painted canoe paddle carved by a tribal member.
Overall the ceremony was filled with smiles as the community finally got to explore City Hall.
"We are incredibly excited about this place," Harden said. "Everyone is welcome here."
Place for community
Wood Village's City Hall doesn't follow the pattern for municipal buildings, which often can be stuffy, cramped, and utilitarian.
Instead the 9,000-square-foot building triumphantly rises up, occupying 1.96 acres of the 21-acre park. There is a prominent overhanging porch made from heavy timber beams blended with the surrounding rustic parkland. The warm wood design, with lots of recycled material, flows into the spacious central grand hall where council chambers is located, with space for 80 visitors to meetings. Council chambers can also be easily reconfigured for other types of meetings or events.
"An important thing was not to build the dais on a pedestal — we wanted to stay at the same level as the people," Harden said.
Overall the design, crafted by LRS Architects and built by Kirby Nagelhout Construction Company, is more reminiscent of a hunting lodge than a City Hall.
"We wanted to put the wood back in Wood Village," Harden said.
In the front of the building is a massive wall of windows that not only lets in plenty of natural light, it signifies a goal to promote transparency in all things that happen within the city.
"We aren't trying to hide anything," Dirks said with a laugh.
The building houses offices, council chambers, a catering kitchen, storage rooms, break areas, event space, conference rooms and support services. Many of those spaces will be available for rent by community groups or for private events like family reunions or weddings.
Outside there is ample parking, a new splash pad for children, and seating. There is also a veterans' garden that will have red, white and blue flowers, as well as a plaque commemorating veterans and the city's past as World War II workforce housing.
No one is looking back. The former City Hall building was demolished and the property sold to pave the way for the Byways mixed-use development, which features 173 apartments and 10,000 square feet of commercial space.
Selling the old site helped fund the new construction.
The total cost of the project was about $7 million. It was paid for by selling the former City Hall building — $3.5 million, an additional $1.6 million from Urban Renewal, and the remainder coming from the Wood Village General Fund. No debt was needed for the construction of the building, nor were any fees increased.
Construction took just over a year to complete, and the community were involved throughout the design process. There was a soft opening in July, with staff slowing settling into their new digs.
"This all was designed with the community in mind, not just council and staff," Dirks said.
And there are more plans brewing in the future.
Council will rehab the fields behind City Hall to have a dedicated soccer and baseball field. There will also be free WiFi surrounding City Hall, with solar "smart" benches for people to charge their devices.
Once there is room in the budget, city leaders want to construct a skate park next to the parking lot, and bring a futsal court to the park.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Harden said.
But for now everyone is reveling in what was accomplished.
"This is your new home in the community," Harden said.
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