Traffic, Parking and Construction
Project Schedule and Public Comment
What are the serious safety problems?
The central courthouse doesn’t meet current seismic codes. Its unreinforced masonry walls mean the courthouse has a safety ranking of “poor.” Limitations of space and century-old design also create regular security concerns for court personnel, crime victims, witnesses and the general public because criminal defendants can’t always be kept separate in public pathways.
What are the major functional difficulties?
The central courthouse lacks secured vehicle pick-up and drop-off areas for those in custody. The building also doesn’t meet other state and federal codes for modern courthouses. Courtrooms in the downtown courthouse are not adequately designed to meet current demands for efficiency and services. Also, the required security screening equipment and inadequate lobby size regularly creates long lines that delay entry into the building. And the building doesn’t meet current Americans with Disabilities Act standards due to a lack of entry ramps and elevators.
Why build a new courthouse?
When the central courthouse was built in downtown Portland between 1909 and 1914, the county had one-third its current population. This was long before modern building code standards for earthquakes were in place. A century’s worth of public use combined with increased demands from today’s much larger population of about 750,000 county residents has created major functional difficulties and serious safety problems that must be resolved.
More than one in 10 county residents receives a jury summons each year, meaning there is a high likelihood county residents will be in the courthouse. Multnomah County issued more than 90,000 summons for jury duty in 2013 to county residents 18 and older. It's essential that everyone in the community who is either compelled or relies on the courthouse for business matters and due process has a safe place.
Why is a safe and functional courthouse important?
The courthouse is an essential home for a community’s daily judicial operations and must be functional even in the case of a major catastrophe like an earthquake. The courthouse also is one of the few community spaces that the public is compelled to enter—for everything from jury duty to fulfilling legal obligations by paying a parking ticket or serving as a trial witness. While every building should have the highest safety standards, it’s especially important when you’re talking about a structure where people are required by law to enter. In addition, the state of Oregon requires the county to provide facilities for the Court to operate.
Why not just renovate the existing courthouse?
Remodeling the current courthouse was considered in detail in 2011 and many issues were identified. The physical size of the existing courthouse will not meet future needs and it doesn’t meet 21st century courthouse requirements. There are inadequate court room sizes and waiting areas for witnesses, victims and families. The time frame for renovation would take longer than building a new courthouse and the temporary relocation of courthouse operations would be too disruptive, expensive and logistically challenging.
What is planned for the existing courthouse after a new one is constructed?
No decisions have been scheduled for the existing 100-year-old courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We know the future of the existing courthouse is an important public conversation that will take into account all stakeholders. A planning process is scheduled to begin before the new courthouse opens. The building could be re-purposed by the county or sold and renovated by a new owner.
How much will the courthouse project cost? How will it be funded?
What functions will be in the new courthouse?
The new courthouse will not only include the essential functions of the current courthouse, many of those functions will expand in size and space. The current courthouse includes the Multnomah Circuit Court operations departments, judicial officers, and courtrooms handling offenses from parking and traffic violations to capital murder cases, civil cases from small claims and evictions to multi-million dollar lawsuits, and domestic relations and probate matters. It also holds orientation and deliberation rooms for jurors and grand jurors; Multnomah County Probation Intake offices; courthouse security and transport of in-custody defendants provided by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.
The current courthouse hosts the Multnomah Law Library; Family Court Services, an organization that provides mediation, counseling, and educational classes; CourtCare, a free, drop-in child-care service, for low-income families who have business at the courthouse; and a coffee stand run by the Commission for the Blind.
Construction began in October 2016 with installation of construction fencing around the block. In November, the Veritable Quandary building and several trees on the block were taken down. The closed ramp from southbound Naito Parkway to the Hawthorne Bridge will be removed this winter and utilities will be relocated starting in January. Excavation for the building's foundation will start in February.
How was the site, near the Hawthorne Bridgehead chosen?
The site for the new courthouse was selected in 2015 after a long list of sites was narrowed down to two potential sites - the preferred site near Hawthorne Bridgehead and an alternate next to the KOIN Tower. The courthouse project team performed extensive due diligence including an evaluation of environmental, geotechnical, seismic, traffic, transit and parking impacts, among other analysis. It also included a summary of stakeholder and public input collected from an online survey, two open houses, and interviews. The site near the Hawthorne Bridgehead was chosen for a multitude of reasons including its location on county-owned land and proximity to the justice center.
What will happen to existing businesses near the new courthouse like the Veritable Quandary?
With public building projects, negotiations are required to help existing property owners with a new development. Multnomah County has worked with building owners and tenants on the courthouse block to identify their issues and concerns. The county will continue to work to achieve the best outcomes for the project and impacted property owners. After exploring a number of options, the owner of the Veritable Quandary restaurant on the block announced plans to sell the restaurant property to the county in January 2016. The restaurant closed in September 2016 and the building was taken down in November. A number of owners of business properties in the Jefferson Station building (including Tom's First Avenue Bento) have also sold their properties to the county which plans to incorporate the building in the courthouse project.
How do we know the new courthouse will fit the site and is appropriately sized?
Multnomah County hired the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to determine current and future needs for the courthouse. The NCSC group used population, caseloads and other documentation to determine the space requirements for a 2050 courthouse. DAY CPM Services/HDR Inc, the Owner’s Representative, prepared blocking and stacking diagrams to determine how the required program would fit on the selected site. The team worked within these parameters to determine size and budget for a new central courthouse that would serve the County for years to come. A major factor in space planning is to create a sallyport for inmate transportation and secure pathways for movement of the various courthouse users.
How will the Central City 2035 Plan for downtown affect the site?
Portland’s 2035 Plan will make areas adjacent to bridgeheads have higher height limits. Land near the Hawthorne Bridge will be zoned for buildings up to 325’ tall. Prominent buildings are a guiding factor for the city planning guide. City Council adopted the West Quadrant Plan in 2015 and approved a request to design the new courthouse for the new height limit in early June 2016.
What will happen to the Jefferson Station building on the courthouse block?
Will there be an underground tunnel connecting the Justice Center to the new courthouse?
No, a tunnel is not included. Only a small percentage of in-custody defendants are in the Justice Center. More that 95% of defendants transported to the courthouse come from the Inverness Jail. The project team studied a tunnel and recommended against it, because costs and risks outweighed benefits. The County Board approved the recommendation in December 2015.
What kind of access will be provided for people with disabilities?
The courthouse will be fully accessible to people with disabilities and compliant with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards. This includes a hearing assisted system in courtrooms, on ramps and in elevators. It also includes clear floor and turning space for wheelchairs in courtrooms and other spaces.
What artwork will be featured in the new courthouse?
The county is working with the Regional Arts and Culture Council to identify artists who will create artwork for the courthouse, using 2 percent for art funds from the project.
How will construction impact getting around these locations?
Traffic planners and the contractor will establish safe travel routes during and after construction. Covered walk and bicycle pathways would be placed adjacent to the work zone, during the heavy construction phase (similar to those at the Park Avenue West Tower during construction). Construction sequencing will be scheduled to help reduce traffic congestion. The opening of the Tilikum Crossing Transit Bridge in 2015 reduced bus traffic at SW Madison St. and SW First Ave. by almost 50 percent.
Will there be a parking structure at the new courthouse?
The new courthouse will not include parking because of security concerns and high costs. Courthouse visitors and staff will use nearby parking garages or street parking as they do at the current courthouse. The new courthouse site is served by many transit lines and will be easily accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Some night and weekend work will be needed during construction of the new courthouse. We will take a number of steps to be respectful of our neighbors:
- Roads will remain open during construction, with periodic restrictions to traffic lanes and sidewalks.
- The public will have continuous access to the SmartPark entry on SW Jefferson St., as well as the Hawthorne Bridge.
- Occasional temporary street re-routes may be required.
- Construction crews will use noise mitigation techniques, air quality monitoring, truck wheel washes, and other strategies to minimize impacts.
- In-street utility work will begin in February 2017 and continue through the end of April 2017. Most utility work will be conducted at night between 8 pm and 6 am.
- Typical construction hours will be 7 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday with occasional work activities starting at 5 am. Work may be performed on Saturdays as needed.
- All equipment will comply with US Environmental Protection Agency noise standards.
- The project will work to reduce truck movements at night.
- Use portable noise meters onsite to measure noise levels.
- Maintain a 24-hour telephone response line (503-988-8888) for noise complaints.
- Address complaints within 24 hours or before the next scheduled night work.
Will the project apply for a noise variance to work some nights and weekends?
Yes, the project will seek a noise variance from the City of Portland to do work on some nights and weekends, to minimize traffic impacts on commuters. The Portland Noise Control Office will accept public testimony on the variance request at a meeting on Wednesday, December 14 at City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave. The Noise Review Board is expected to vote on the variance at the meeting.
What kind of sustainable materials/features will be used in the new courthouse?
The courthouse project will include many sustainable features including but not limited to: solar panels on the tower roof, green roofs on Jefferson Station and the lower section of the courthouse The project team is researching the implementation of passive energy strategies and stormwater harvesting. Passive energy strategies involves maximizing the use of natural resources like solar radiation and cool night air to heat/cool the internal environment. Stormwater harvesting involves the collection of stormwater run-off from urban areas like drains or creeks, then treating and storing it for reuse.
Will the new courthouse be LEED certified?
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient. They use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As an added bonus, they save money. The County is aspiring for LEED Gold certification.
Is the new courthouse in a floodplain and will it be able to withstand the impacts of a flood event?
As part of due diligence, the central courthouse team researched 100-year flood data and the impacts of the 100-year flood in 1996. The site elevation at 44 feet is above the Willamette River crest level at 28.6 feet and above the reach of the groundwater at 12’9”. The new central courthouse is not in a floodplain.
What is the project schedule?
Currently, the Central Courthouse Project is in the design phase. A team led by SRG Partnership was selected for architecture and engineering services, while Hoffman Construction was selected for the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CMGC) contract.
Construction is slated to begin in 2017 and the new courthouse is expected to open by 2020.
September 2013: County hires project manager
- July 2013: Legislature makes bipartisan commitment of $15 million in the 2013 - 2015 biennium to support the new central courthouse.
- December 2013: DAY CPM selected as the county’s “owner’s representative” to oversee contracts on this high-priority project, and to add expertise to help plan the courthouse layout, footprint, size and functional configuration.
- July 2014: Analysis by the National Center for State Courts identifying current functions that are essential for a new courthouse.
- July 2014: Courthouse site solicitation process issued.
- November 2014: A reference design, which is an architectural layout that studies what building functions should be next to each other for heightened security and the highest possible operational efficiency, is completed.
- December 2014: The courthouse executive team recommends the Hawthorne Bridgehead south block as a preferred site and nearby block 128 (currently a surface parking between the KOIN Tower and the Marriot Hotel) as an alternate site to be further studied.
- December 2014: Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approves preliminary plans and site selection recommendations for the central courthouse project.
- January - February 2015: Project team conducts due diligence on two sites and hosts two open houses to share information and solicit public input for the courthouse site selection.
- February 2015: Multnomah County launches online public survey to solicit input for the courthouse site selection.
- February 2015: Board of County Commissioners selects Construction Manager/General Contractor project delivery method for construction of central courthouse.
- April 9 2015: Multnomah County Board of Commissioners briefed on due diligence studies conducted on preferred and alternate site.
- April 16 2015: Multnomah County Board of Commissioners unanimously vote to approve county-owned Hawthorne Bridgehead site as future site for central courthouse.
- July 2015: State lawmakers allocate $17.4 million in funding for the new Multnomah County Central Courthouse.
- July 2015: Contractor teams selected for downtown courthouse including SRG Partnership/ RicciGreene Associates for design and engineering services, and Hoffman Construction as Construction Manager/General Contractor.
- August 2015: Central Courthouse projects hosts first design open house with courthouse design team and interested Minority, Women and Emerging Small Business (MWESB) firms.
- December 2015: Board approves the FAC-1 Project Plan that adds the District Attorney’s Office, and 4 high volume courts to the project with a budget increase to $300 million.
- February 2016: Board briefed on architectural design concepts.
- March 2016: Open house with courthouse construction management team and MWESB firms.
- April 2016: Public open house on courthouse design.
Will there be a chance for the public to weigh in on project decisions?
Members of the public can always weigh in on decisions made about the courthouse during the public comment period at regularly scheduled board meetings. Public input will be sought at open houses and through online surveys before key milestones. The public can email the courthouse team at firstname.lastname@example.org. County Commissioners want to make sure the public’s views are considered so that this essential project reflects community needs and values.