Multnomah County Courthouse
Take a video tour of the Downtown Courthouse:
Multnomah County’s downtown courthouse was built between 1909 and 1914, when the county had only 250,000 residents and long before modern building code standards for the region’s risk of earthquakes were in place.
Today, nearly three times that many people live in Multnomah County and the courthouse gets heavily used each day, from judges to jurors to people paying their parking tickets. Greater demand from a much larger population, coupled with a century’s worth of use, means the courthouse has developed serious safety problems that no longer can be deferred.
Simply put, the courthouse is structurally and functionally obsolete. The building doesn’t meet current seismic codes. There are also serious security concerns for the courts and the public, given the courthouse’s limitations on separating criminal defendants from judges and witnesses.
Multnomah County is committed to providing a safe and functional courthouse and is making great progress toward achieving that goal. Please check this page frequently for updates on this project.
Keep up with news coverage about the courthouse:
- Dec. 10, 2013 in The Portland Business Journal: County picks project representative
- Dec. 9, 2013 in The Oregonian: County picks owner's representative for project
- July 14, 2013 on OPB: Plans Moving Forward For New Multnomah County Courthouse
- July 11, 2013 in The Oregonian: Multnomah County Courthouse replacement project gets $15 million legislative shot in the arm
- July 11, 2013 in the Portland Business Journal: $15M revives plans for a new Multnomah County Courthouse
- July 9, 2013 in The Oregonian: Legislature's capital construction projects includes $15 million for the courthouse.
- May 2013 Chair Cogen's budget invests $1 million for early planning to replace the courthouse.
- June 14, 2012 in The Oregonian: "New Multnomah County courthouse: Best or Cheapest"
- Aug. 4, 2012 editorial in The Oregonian: "Multnomah County courthouse: better to renovate than replace"
- Sept. 27, 2012 on KOIN: "A public meeting about courthouse safety is Thursday"
- Sept. 27, 2012 on KEX: "A dangerous county courthouse"
- Sept. 28, 2012 in The Oregonian: "Future of Multnomah County courthouse mulled as debate focuses on renovation versus new construction"
- Oct. 9, 2012 in The Oregonian: "Multnomah County Courthouse tour reveals depth of renovation challenges"
- Oct. 9, 2012 in The Oregonian: "Problems plauge 103-year-old Multnomah County Courthouse (photo essay)"
- Nov. 21, 2012 in The Oregonian: "Multnomah County considers public-private partnership as way to rebuild or renovate historic courthouse"
County Chooses Owner's Representative for project
Multnomah County has chosen DAY Comprehensive Project Management as its owner's representative for the project to replace the central courthouse in downtown Portland.
The role of an owner’s representative is to oversee contracts for the county on this high-priority project, and to add its expertise to help plan the best courthouse layout, footprint, size and functional configuration for the next 50 years.
“We are excited to work with a local company like DAY CPM with its strong track record working on complex projects,’’ said county Commissioner Judy Shiprack. “This news is one more key sign of the solid and steady progress the county continues to make toward our goal of a safe and functional courthouse.”
County Commissioner Liesl Wendt said the choice of an owner’s representative builds on the momentum established in 2013 on several other fronts toward replacing the current courthouse, which is badly outdated after 100 years and seismically unsafe.
Major developments in recent months have included a $15 million commitment from the Oregon Legislature toward a new courthouse; and a study now underway to analyze what programming and functions are needed in a new courthouse.And the county has contracted work to perform a business case analysis that will evaluate multiple financing options, including the use of a public-private partnership.
“Great momentum has been established this year toward the new courthouse our community deserves,” Wendt said. “We look forward in 2014 to completing the programming, evaluating locations for a new courthouse, and choosing the financing method that best protects taxpayers and ensures the new courthouse will meet the community's needs.”
Multnomah County hopes to have Day under contract by early January. The county’s goal is to complete construction by 2019.
Board approves contract with National Center for State Courts
The National Center for State Courts will help Multnomah County with its work to replace the downtown courthouse with a facility that can work well for decades to come.
The Board of Commissioners, meeting on July 25 as the county’s Public Contract Review Board, voted unanimously to approve a contract with the national center for up to two years.
The contract, which will not exceed $250,000, will provide the county with the center’s national expertise in courthouse planning, operations, programming and layout.
“We have a choice to continue the configuration of the downtown court and how business has been conducted for the last 100 years,’’ county facilities director Michael Bowers told the board at its July 25 meeting, “or we need to remodel and reconfigure our process to move forward with the court we want for the next 50 years.”
County purchasing manager Brian Smith told the board that one of the recommendations that emerged from a June 3 industry forum was the benefit of bringing in the National Center for State Courts.
“They know our community.” Commissioner Kafoury said. “They’ve done studies here on our courthouse facilities before, so they’re not going to have to start from scratch … They’re really industry leaders and I think we’re going to be very glad that we got them involved.”
“This is tremendously encouraging,” Commissioner Shiprack said. “This is colossal progress over the entire arc of 40 years of working to get a safe functional courthouse for Multnomah County.”
Legislature makes key commitment to courthouse project
The project to replace the Multnomah County Courthouse took a significant step forward in the recently concluded session of the Oregon Legislature.
The courthouse project got a $15 million bipartisan commitment from the Legislature as part of a larger capital construction funding package for statewide needs in Senate Bill 5506.
The Legislature’s bipartisan support for this project demonstrates how much momentum has been achieved toward replacing the 100-year-old courthouse, which is functionally obsolete and structurally dangerous.
The building is seismically unsafe and its outdated design often requires court personnel, victims, witnesses and the general public—including visiting schoolchildren—to share public pathways with criminal defendants.
Multnomah County officials praised the Legislature for approving the funding on July 8, and said the milestone marks a great partnership with the state.
"This new partnership with the state of Oregon means the long-overdue courthouse replacement project will be able to move forward after 40 years of studies and good intentions,’’ said Commissioner Deborah Kafoury.
“What's clear now, “ Kafoury said, “is that we're on the path towards building a safe and functional courthouse for the more than 1,500 people who use the courthouse every day.”
“Legislative support adds significantly to the momentum for a new courthouse,” said Commissioner Judy Shiprack. “I appreciate the partnership of the Legislature and the assistance of the governor -- together, we will continue to move this important project forward.”
June industry forum on the courthouse draws huge interest
About 50 companies sent representatives to a June 3 industry forum to discuss an RFP for an owner’s rep for the courthouse project.
The owner's rep would be responsible for helping Multnomah County to provide the financial, technical, and procurement assistance to create a program document for the best courthouse layout, footprint, size and functional configuration.
All that work would be followed by site selection, design, finance options and construction of a new courthouse.
Commissioner Judy Shiprack addressed the June 3 forum, thanking the 70-plus representatives from interested companies for their attendance and discussing the great momentum that’s been achieved on this project.
Board approves downtown County Courthouse screening report at Dec. 6 meeting
Over the next several months, Multnomah County’s downtown courthouse will be studied to determine the best ways to fund a renovation or replacement project for the nearly 100-year-old building.
The Board of Commissioners approved a resolution on Thursday, Dec. 6 that allows an external firm to prepare a screening report, which will be paid for by a State of Oregon grant and be completed by February. The report will examine whether the project is best implemented through traditional financing or a possible public-private partnership.
The board’s action follows a busy fall in which it sought community feedback about the building’s safety issues and solutions to seismic and structural hazards. Results from an online community survey and two public community meetings co-hosted by Commissioners Deborah Kafoury and Judy Shiprack were shared at the Dec. 6 board meeting.
Among the survey findings, which received 733 responses:
- About a half of all respondents said their general impression of the courthouse level of safety is poor.
- Nearly two-fifths of respondents said their general impression of courthouse functionality is poor, and about as many said it is fair.
- More than two-thirds of respondents strongly agreed with the statement, “Replacing or renovating the courthouse should be a priority for Multnomah County and the state.”
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