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Photo Credit: COURTESY: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - One of the design concepts for the proposed new Multnomah County Courthouse shows how it would look in relation to other buildings in the area.Multnomah County leaders have released sketches of a 17-story central courthouse that has a lot of attractive and functional features.


There are public views of the Willamette River; lots of natural light made possible by the L-shaped layout; a separate security elevator; and room for about 100 people to queue up under shelter outside.

There’s also a fountain outside the entrance, adjacent to the Veritable Quandary — the restaurant with a patio that now sits at the west side of the Hawthorne Bridgehead.

Photo Credit: COURTESY: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - In this conceptual drawing, the Veritable Quandry restaurant (center) would sit alongside the new courthouse. No specific designs are yet being proposed. Those features are not part of any final design, just preliminary sketches, what the architects call a “test fit.”

“These are early concepts that show how the building can fit on this site,” says Mike Pullen, a county spokesman. The courthouse would occupy about two-thirds of the block, facing Southwest Madison Street.

The sketches will be revealed to the public tonight, Jan. 29, at the county’s first open house on the design of the new courthouse.

The sketches were done by HDR, an international engineering firm that specializes in designing buildings with high-security needs.

HDR is part of the owner’s representative team for the new courthouse project, working on behalf of the county.

HDR has not been hired to design the new courthouse; the county board will decide in February how to move forward with that process.

The board could use what’s considered the old system of “design-bid-build,” which means hiring the designer first, then the builder.

Or they could pursue the new method of “construction manager/general contractor,” which involves hiring the builder and designer to work as a team.

Either way, the board will solicit bids and hire the firms to take on the project this summer.

In the meantime, county leaders want to hear input from the public about the courthouse site.

“We just really want questions and comments about the site,” Pullen says — things related to bike access, safety concerns and other issues. “We don’t want to hear (things like), ‘We want it to look like a Greek temple.’”

Photo Credit: COURTESY: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - A new fountain at the entrance to the courthouse would provide a pleasant space in front of the building.The biggest concerns about the board’s preferred site so far have been for the Veritable Quandary.

The sketches show the restaurant coexisting with the courthouse, its patio in a location that would not be next to the line of people waiting to get in.

“We want to hear their ideas about keeping the VQ in business during construction,” Pullen says.

HDR also has released sketches for the board’s alternate site, the parking lot between the KOIN Tower and the Marriott Hotel.

The courthouse building at that site is also L-shaped, which has many benefits, Pullen says: “The side of the building with the river has great views — it’s the public hallways to enter courtrooms. ... It’s sort of a difficult moment for people; (this is) sort of restful, calming.”

While the public comment period is open, the county also is doing due diligence on the two sites, looking for any technical issues with the land, soil or other conditions.

Many factors at either site are still up in the air, including the height of the building. That will be determined by the number of courtrooms needed, and by city height restrictions.

The city will consider adjusting height restrictions as part of its 2035 plan, Pullen says, so county leaders will monitor that process.

Photo Credit: COURTESY: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - This drawing shows the planned layout of the new courthouse.

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