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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The New Courthouse the County's Planning Will Be Bigger. Much Bigger.

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Update, Wednesday, 4:15 pm:

There are varying numbers for how many square feet the existing courthouse actually is. This report [pdf], posted on the county's website, indicates it is 328,486 GSF, or gross square feet.

The county also has another number: 292,717 square feet.

"Apparently previous county building numbers used all available space (HVAC space, etc.) and the standards have changed since then," says spokesman Hank Stern.

If we go with the lower figure, the new courthouse Multnomah County hopes to build is almost 43 percent larger. It's important to note, though, that the county's numbers call for a new courthouse of 420,000 GSF, which, according to definitions I've found, includes the "all available space" Stern describes.

Original post:

The new courthouse Multnomah County officials have been pining for won't just be safer than the seismically shoddy court building on SW 4th. If county leaders get their way (after nearly five decades of striving) it's going to be nearly 30 percent larger.

In a solicitation [pdf] released yesterday, the county says the new courthouse will need to be nearly 100,000 square feet bigger than the current building—an increase that's roughly the same size as new county healthy department headquarters in the works. Now, officials are calling on Portland property owners to make their best offers for plots where the new justice building might sit.

That land should be within a certain boundary, the document says—roughly I-405 on the west, NE/SE 12th on the east, the Ross Island Bridge on the south and N/NE Weidler to the north (see diagram above). And it must be able to accommodate a structure of 420,000 square feet, with room to expand. That’s a number officials hadn’t yet furnished publicly, and the first indication of how large a building the county has in mind. The current courthouse—no Hobbit hole itself—is a little over 328,000 square feet.

There’s still no price tag attached, though the project has long been expected to cost upward of $200 million.

“Any cost estimate will be driven by the site the board ultimately chooses as well as by what goes into the new building,” says spokesman Hank Stern. A study is in the works that will provide many of those answers. Then officials have to figure out how to pay for it all.

To that point, the county is willing to be flexible in the type of land deal it makes—up to and including offloading the shaky old courthouse onto a potential seller. The site solicitation makes clear: “The County would be interested in considering a property exchange for existing County property. This exchange could include the existing Courthouse, recognizing the Courthouse's historic designation.”

As we've reported, Multnomah County intended at one point to place the courthouse on a piece of land just west of the Hawthorne Bridge. It even crafted a cushy deal with the Portland Development Commission as part of that process, before deciding the parcel wasn't big enough.

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