Eugene City Hall project featured in DJC

The new Eugene City Hall is designed to be more attractive, in part via a new public plaza.

The new Eugene City Hall is designed to be more attractive, in part via a new public plaza.

By Inka Bajandas
Feb 11, 2015

Less off-putting, more inviting

$18 million project is under way to replace outdated Eugene City Hall

The new Eugene City Hall will include materials from its predecessor, but the look of the 1960s-era building won't be replicated.

A common thread in public feedback gathered during an extensive community outreach campaign to help shape plans to replace City Hall were complaints about the unhospitable feeling of the current building, said Kaarin Knudson, a project manager with Eugene-based Rowell Brokaw Architects. The firm is working with Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnership to design a new Eugene City Hall.

The $18 million project will replace a single-story structure and parking garage, built in 1964, that encompassed a full city block in downtown Eugene. The building wasn't easily accessible to people with disabilities, and its wooden slat facade had also long been an off-putting element to city residents, Knudson said.

"We have described this as (a) really transformative project for the city," she said. "it will change how the public interacts with City Hall. The new building will be design to be much more accessible and inviting, and provide more transparency for city government."

The project recently entered the schematic design phase, and plans are expected to be finalized by this fall. Deconstruction of the approximately 100,000-square-foot City Hall building started this past September. Plans call for replacing the structure with a four-story, approximately 30,000-square-foot building with a mezzanine that will house the Eugene City Council Chambers, offices for the city manager and mayor, and public meeting space. 

The project also includes creation of a new public plaza facing Eighth Avenue. It will expand on the nearby Park Blocks, where the Eugene Saturday Market and Lane County Farmers Market operate. 

The new City Hall will take up half of the full-block site occupied by the original building. Later development on the other half could include a six- to 1-story city office building and a new home for the Lane County Circuit Court. 

Plans to replace Eugene City Hall have long been in the works because the 1964 building was unpopular with the community, the structure was outdated and the steam heating system was inefficient, said Steve Loges, project manager with the city's Facility Management Division. 

"It was like it was fenced off because of those wooden slats," he said. "The council was giving us direction they wanted to be out of there 12 years ago. 

"We knew it was a really costly building. It was a real energy hog, basically."

Plans to renovate the existing building were abandoned because it would have been challenging to adequately modify the deteriorating structure to fully meet community needs, Knudson said.

"The 1964 building didn't succeed as a place where the community felt welcome and that felt relevant to their daily lives," she said. "The desire from the community that Eugene City Hall is welcoming ... That is absolutely the basis for our design work."

To help achieve this goal, design for the new City Hall will include a fully accessible ground floor with lots of glass to give it a much more open fee, Knudson said.

"Eugene has a history and identity that takes a lot of pride in being an accessible city, so having a City Hall that that embraces accessibility is really important," she said. 

Although it could not be saved through a renovation, the original City Hall is being carefully deconstructed. The goal, Loges said, is to reuse 95 percent of the building materials. This includes crushing up the concrete base for use as infill for the new building and recycling the steel frame. 

"We're really trying to be responsible in taking that building down," he said. 

The Eugene City Council has consider preserving the round council chambers, but ultimately decided against that option because it would be too costly, Loges said.

One element of the original building that will be preserved is the wooden slat facade, but in a new form, Knudson said. The slats have been reclaimed and will be used on the new building's interior. 

"We will use that architectural element that has historically been seen as a barrier and transform that into something that communicates warmth in the building," she said.

Crews from Eugene-based general contractor McKenzie Commercial are schedule to start work on the new City Hall by the end of this year and wrap up in late 2016.

Eugene City Hall replacement
Location: 777 Pearl Street, Eugene
Cost: $18 million
Anticipated construction start date: late 2015
Anticipated construction completion date: late 2016
Owner: City of Eugene
Architects: Rowell Brokaw Architects and Miller Hull Partnership
Landscape Architects: PWL Partnership and Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture and Planning
Engineers: PAE, Catena Consulting Engineers and KPFF Consulting Engineers
Construction Manager-General Contractor: McKenzie Commercial
Other Associates: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design, Leland Consulting Group, Architectural Cost Consultants, Cogita Partners, Brightworks and Systems West Engineers