Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



No fatal flaws found with either site

COURTESY OF MULTNOMAH COUNTY - The preferred site for the new Multnomah County Courthouse is still at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge. A decision will be made this week by the Multnomah County commissioners.Multnomah County leaders are one step closer to siting a new Central Courthouse.

Project leaders delivered several pieces of good news to the Board of Commisisoners on Thursday, results from the due diligence period that just wrapped up:

• JD Deschamps, the county’s project manager, said the Department of Administrative Services and Oregon Justice Department have approved the county’s application for funding, and will be a “50-50 partner with the county.”

The state bond sale for a new courthouse will close at the end of March for $15 million.

• The Portland City Council has approved the West Quadrant 2035 Plan, which increased the allowable building height limit to a maximum of 325 feet. In the county’s “test fit” designs, a 17-story courthouse at either site would need about 270 feet.

• There were no “fatal flaws” found at either of the sites under consideration, from the environmental and geotechnical reviews to the public process. “Both sites appear to be clean sites,” said Mike Day, president of Day CPM, the owner’s representative.

Chair Deborah Kafoury and other leaders were clearly pleased with the news. “That’s exciting,” Kafoury said in response to the lengthy update.

The project team is still recommending its preferred site, on the grassy parcel at the Hawthorne Bridgehead next to the Veritable Quandary restaurant. The alternate site is Block 128, between the KOIN Tower and Marriott Hotel.

The county board will meet again Thursday, April 16, to vote on the site selection.

That will set in motion a number of actions: On April 17, the county will issue a request for proposals for the project architect, followed by a request for proposals of a construction manager/general contractor on May 1.

Final selections of both are expected to be made at the end of June.

A handful of lawyers and court users testified in support of the process.

Commissioner Loretta Smith said she read the documents on Easter Sunday, and was very happy.

“One of my biggest issues of concern was around public outreach,” Smith told the project leaders. “I’m very impressed with the level of public outreach done.”

The county held two open houses in January and February, on each side of the river, that drew about 200 people.

The county conducted an online survey that garnered 388 responses during three weeks in February.

The county also did interviews with 14 stakeholder groups, with neighboring property owners and interest groups including bike and pedestrian groups and the Portland Business Alliance.

Mike Pullen, communications officer for the county, said the feedback about the Hawthorne Bridgehead site was generally positive, but most concern was about the need for good site design on the busy Madison Street side.

“There were no fatal flaws, and most concerns were coming from supporters of the (VQ) restaurant.”

If the preferred site goes forward, the owner of the VQ has said he’d like to be involved in the design, Pullen said.

Smith also asked what safety precautions would be taken to protect the VQ during construction.

Day replied that he has worked on many projects that require new construction next to a building that must maintain operations.

“Both Jefferson Station (adjacent to the VQ) and the VQ have foundations that are deeper,” he said.

“There are techniques to create isolation and separation, almost a moat; they are protected.”

Smith also asked if the cost of mitigation concerns could be written in, because “change orders drive me crazy.”

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