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The $387 million bond gives East County a 'flagship' library and improvements across the system

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - If it passes, the biggest chunk of the library bond will build a huge new 'flagship' library in East Multnomah County.

The $387 million bond to improve Multnomah County's libraries was easily approved by 60% of voters Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The biggest chunk of the bond will pay for a big "flagship" library in Gresham or East Multnomah County, comparable in size and services to the Central Library in downtown Portland.

This new 95,000-square-foot East County flagship would cost roughly $125.2 million and would be the first project of the bond building program. The location of the possible new building, which is expected to open in early 2025, has not yet been determined.

In addition to the East County flagship, seven other branches across Multnomah County also will be replaced or upgraded.

In a statement, Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke thanked voters and promised "Your library system will get right to work to create these new spaces with and for the community."

The Holgate Library will be replaced. The North Portland library will be completely renovated and add about 1,500 square feet to the current 8,700 square feet.

The Northwest Portland library, which now is in leased space, will be relocated and expanded.

The Midland, Belmont and St. Johns branches will also be renovated and expanded.

The Albina Library, which moved back to its original location in the Title Wave bookstore, will also get some attention.

Behind the scenes, the bond also will pay for a 45,000-square-foot centralized materials handling and storage center. There also will be technology, seismic and accessibility upgrades at branches.

"Our libraries have always been a cornerstone of this community and this measure sets the stage for a brighter future," said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury in a statement.

"As we move through and eventually out of the COVID-19 pandemic, our libraries will be a key element to help our community recover and thrive," she added.

The bond will cost the average county homeowner about $121 per year based on the annual tax rate of 61 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value. That average assessed home value is $198,388 in Multnomah County.

Multnomah County residents have expressed their love of their library system by routinely approving bonds and money measures to support it. The system is the fourth busiest in the country, but 102nd in the amount of space, Multnomah County Library said in election materials.

East County has long been underserved by the Multnomah County Library system. About 40% of the county's population lives east of Interstate 205, but that area has only about 20% of the total library space.

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