Board briefed on construction, artwork and diversity goals for Central Courthouse

June 25, 2018

Multnomah County Commissioners were updated at the June 21 board meeting on the progress of the Central Courthouse Project. The quarterly briefing included updates on workforce diversity, public artwork and the status of construction on the $324.5 million project.

The swiftly rising, 17-story-structure at Southwest First Avenue and Madison Street is slated for completion in the spring of 2020. Crews have already started pouring concrete for the 11th floor of the building, said Mike Day, the project owner’s representative.

“As the building continues to rise, you’re beginning to see the exterior envelope and the forming of the facade (exterior) windows,” Day said. “And in the coming months, there will be stone and other elements to the exterior that you will begin to see.”  

Day shared picturesque views as well as construction photos of the building’s front entrance, three-story lobby, facade and basement. He also shared photos of interior framing, mechanical, electrical and plumbing installation, and more.      

“As we get into the guts of the building, we talk about the shell and core,” he said. “That is all the infrastructure that makes the building work: the mechanical systems, the water, the piping, the ductwork for ventilation and all of the systems that you don’t see.“

During the design phase, 3D modeling is used not only to design and conceptualize the project but also to create prefabricated materials and choreograph different systems, Day said.

The process “helps improve on construction costs,” he continued. “And it allows the construction schedule to move quicker because there's more offsite fabrication and prefabrication that can happen, so it becomes a ‘kit of parts’ approach when they’re actually doing the physical install on site.”

The building’s facade is installed through a hydro-scaffolding system that moves workers and materials up and down the building. And, in addition to a traditional crane, Day said, a smaller crane that can hoist lighter loads of facade material is also being used.

JD Deschamps, the county’s project manager, extolled a recently installed 200-foot mural that students at the King School Museum for Contemporary Art created with local artist Ralph Pugay.

The mural, inside a covered walkway on Southwest Madison, depicts a jury box filled with people who represent the American legal concept of “a jury of your peers.”

The project was made possible by the courthouse project’s percent for art funding, the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), which helped oversee the project, and Hoffman Construction, which installed the mural.  

Another artist, Lynn Basa, created concepts for artwork that will be placed in the courthouse lobby. Local artists will create metal art panels that will wrap the building.

Deschamps updated the board on the project’s small business contracting, workforce diversity and apprenticeship goals, which are tracked every month.

The goals include:

  • Ensuring 20 percent of total contract dollars are awarded to firms owned by minorities, women, veterans with disabling conditions, and emerging small businesses. The latest results are at 23.8 percent.
  • A 20 percent participation rate among apprentice workers. The latest results are at 27 percent participation    

The project has exceeded many goals and is pushing higher, Deschamps said. Still, he noted some challenges.  

“We’re a little low on the minority-participation for journeymen and women and we’re a little low for women on the apprenticeships,” he said. “But we’ll continue to add people and grow.”

Commissioner Loretta Smith commended the progress.

“We have 25 cranes out there and looking at the talent that’s available, I think we’re doing good,” Smith said, noting Portland’s construction boom. “Everybody is going to have a tough time meeting goals, but I think that we’re doing fine.”

The project team uses a risk-matrix tool to monitor contingency and overall risk on the multimillion-dollar project.  

“It’s one thing to know where we are with our budget and costs,” Deschamps said. “But we are also tracking our financing. I meet quarterly with County accounting to track spending.”

County commissioners praised the progress.

“Through this project you are living out our values,” Commissioner Lori Stegmann said. “We’re building a beautiful courthouse that will serve so many people.”

“Keep up the good work,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said.

View the full presentation.

For more information on the courthouse project, visit