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No Citizen Input on City Hall Architect

City Hall may be fenced-off, padlocked and dormant, but seven proposals in response to the city’s request for proposals (RFP) from architects show that the process of redesigning and rebuilding the award-winning structure has begun. City Manager Jon Ruiz will announce finalists March 29 and is expected to select the winning firm (or firms) by April 12, after evaluating the applications on a points scale with city staff.

The lack of a citizens committee to guide the selection process irks some Eugeneans, including Kevin Matthews, editor of ArchitectureWeek. “This is a project of a type and a scope for which the city of Eugene has in the past traditionally assembled a citizen committee to provide input on reviewing the applications,” Matthews says.

“The hiring of firms to do jobs for the city comes under the job of the city manager,” Mayor Kitty Piercy says. She says that Ruiz told her that the City Council will be able to give him input in the selection. “We have talked and he wants this to be as open and engaging a process for the council as possible,” she says.

Piercy says that every city should have a city hall, and getting back into Eugene’s own building is a priority. “It’s very important to me that we not be out of a city hall for too long,” she says, and she hopes to keep “as close to the two-year timeline as possible.”

Matthews says that the city’s RFP raised a couple of red flags for him, especially the portion that calls for a design that “favors new construction to the extent possible” beyond the council chambers, public art and parking. “That’s the opposite of sustainable,” Matthews says. He thinks that a citizens committee could better reflect what the public wants in its City Hall architect, including higher standards for sustainability and honoring what he calls one of the Willamette Valley’s best examples of mid-century modern architecture. “For the city to be only requiring LEED silver is a low bar for sustainability,” he says, citing the LEED platinum and gold buildings that LCC constructed downtown.

Retired architect Dan Herbert says he hopes the design chosen reflects the need for a building that will last. “Any serious proposal would pay strong attention to the implications of a hundred year building,” he says, including the ability to easily update electric, heating and cooling systems and other internal workings.

At this phase, Matthews says, responses to the requests for proposals aren’t very detailed, typically a 25- to 50-page notebook or bound package with descriptions of the firm and its leaders, photographs of their relevant projects, an outline how they would approach the project conceptually and “blather” about integrated design, a key term in the RFP. Proposals are not online, but the city’s purchasing office writes, “Interested parties can either come in to our office to view the file for free or they can request information through a public records request process.”