Multnomah County Commissioners broke ground today on a new Health Department headquarters in Old Town/Chinatown. The new 9-story Gladys McCoy Headquarters promises to transform the dynamics and economics of the iconic Union Station neighborhood.
At least 500 health professionals, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory employees and administrators plan to move from other scattered sites into the new facility in early 2019.
“For more than 150 years, Multnomah County has prevented disease, promoted wellness and provided medical care for the most vulnerable. This building will carry that mission forward for the next 80 years,’’ said Chair Deborah Kafoury. “Our community deserves a modern, efficient nerve center for that critical work.’’
The Health Department, the largest safety net health provider in Oregon, has sought to leave its current location at 426 SW Stark. The current headquarters is located in a 1923 former department store was never designed to meet current and future needs.
The new 157,000-square-foot building will bring together employees from the current headquarters and others in leased space. Commissioner Loretta Smith led a resolution to carry the name of the first African American county commissioner, Gladys McCoy, from the current site to the new location.
“Gladys McCoy championed what was best for people in this community and honoring her in honors and brings her values forward,’’ Smith says.
The building will include street-level windows with art and light to activate the block.
“We see this as a great civic building that will bring vibrancy and security to the neighborhood, and connect Old Town/Chinatown to the Pearl District,’’ said Eugene “Gene’’ Sandoval, a partner at the ZGF Architects.
The land, a half block next to the Bud Clark Commons, was acquired at no cost from the city of Portland’s Housing Bureau.
“The Portland Development Commission supported this to boost the economic development of the Broadway corridor,’’ said Scott Andrews, former chair of the Portland Development, who was first talking about the project in 2009. “This continued investment is expected to bring more than 4,000 jobs and 3,000 residents to the River District.’’
Commissioner Diane McKeel thanked county staff, the general contractor/construction manager JEDunn, and especially, the county’s owner's representative, Shiels Obletz Johnsen, which steered the project through delays and “hiccups.”
Helen Ying, chairwoman of the Old Town/Chinatown Community Association, said her organization testified its support to the Portland Planning Commission and City Council and has met with Health Department staff to understand their work.
As excited as neighbors are about the building, she said, “we’re more excited that the Health Department staff is going to be here, everyday, their shoes on the ground, walking around.
“We are simply thrilled.”