City Hall and a Wrecking Ball

Concepts of a new Eugene City Hall don’t look much like the old building, city councilors saw at a Feb. 10 work session. Architecture firm Rowell Brokaw presented configurations of a small building, with a council chamber similar to the existing one, facing 8th Avenue near its intersection with Pearl.

The first phase of the plan includes a new council chamber, mayor, City Council and city manager’s offices and possibly community meeting rooms covering between a quarter and half the block. The partially underground parking would likely be eliminated and temporarily replaced with street-level parking until phase two of the project comes before council — at an as-yet undetermined date.

Mayor Kitty Piercy says that temporary street-level parking was recommended as a way to keep the remainder of the block shovel-ready for phase two of City Hall while possibly taking in a little income, but parking isn’t the only option. “I’d like to have a broader discussion than just parking,” she says. “It could be a community garden space — there are a lot of possibilities for it.”

Meanwhile, local architect and historic preservation advocate Otto Poticha is moving forward to put the shuttered City Hall on the National Register of Historic Places. “I just got word last week that they thought it was meritorious and clearly they would recommend me going on to the next phase,” Poticha says of the state Historic Review Board. “They did say that the National Historic Review board doesn’t like reviewing things that might be torn down.”

John Rowell of Rowell Brokaw says that tearing down the current structure will allow the firm to retain the elements City Council wants while making the building more energy efficient and cheaper to operate. One major change from the old building will be Rowell Brokaw’s target for energy efficiency. The old City Hall used about 130 EUI (energy use intensity, a measure that normalizes for square footage) during its last seven years in use — including inefficient steam heat — and the firm’s target for the new building is 30 EUI.

“The council made it really clear that what was supposed to be retained was the council chamber, public art and parking, to the degree possible,” Rowell says. “What we found looking at reusing the existing structure is that there were a lot of the problems with that. They have to do with cost, the risk of using the structure, the fact that phase one needs are only 20,000 to 25,000 sq. ft. and we have 80,000 sq. ft. of building space.”

“That’s not what the citizens committee said, but that’s what the council voted on,” Poticha says. “It became fairly clear that staff and the city management needed flexibility, and that flexibility has now come.”