written by Sheila G. Miller
The courthouse is often the architectural centerpiece of a community. But what happens when it’s also a safety hazard?
Oregon created a special construction and renovation fund for courthouses, spurred in part by a state-funded report back in 2007 that showed more than $800 million would be needed to bring the state’s forty-eight court facilities to contemporary standards. The 2013 Legislature created a fund to provide state matching funds to replace unsafe courthouses. Four projects have been approved and another six have been proposed. In early 2016, the Oregon Legislature passed a law that adds surcharges to traffic, parking and other citations that will raise money for courthouse updates.
First on the list was Union County, which completed its new facility in 2015. Then came Jefferson County, which opened a new courthouse in July 2016 after sixteen months of construction. The new facility in Madras replaced a decrepit courthouse built in 1961 in a flood plain that had only two courtrooms.
Now it’s Multnomah County’s turn. The county is getting ready to start excavation and utility work at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland. The location spelled the end of Veritable Quandary, a well-loved restaurant that had stood on that spot for forty-five years. Hoffman Construction is handling the seventeen-story, L-shaped $300 million project, which is expected to be completed by spring 2020.
Tillamook and Lane counties are preparing to build new courthouses as well. Tillamook’s project is expected to cost $15.8 million, and Lane County is currently in the process of selecting a location for the new facility in Eugene.