City Hall Pop Quiz

Architect Otto Poticha illustrates what he thinks the new City Hall will look like after the old City Hall is demolished. He doubts voters will approve the $50 million or so to build the second phase, so in the year 2050 the block will look the same, only with larger trees in the wrap-around parking lot.
Architect Otto Poticha illustrates what he thinks the new City Hall will look like after the old City Hall is demolished. He doubts voters will approve the $50 million or so to build the second phase, so in the year 2050 the block will look the same, only with larger trees in the wrap-around parking lot.

Do you know the three reasons Eugene City Hall should not be torn down? 

1) It will cost taxpayers many millions more than other options.

2) The plan calls for a “ceremonial” City Hall to house only the council chambers, mayor’s office and city administration.

3) The plan violates the city’s commitment to sustainability.

Here’s a pop quiz to see how well you understand the issues.

What will the city lose in tearing down City Hall?

a) An ugly, outdated eyesore.

b) An entire city block developed at a cost of $40 million that includes underground parking accommodating 125 vehicles. Building new parking garages costs about $35,000 per space, so the 125 spaces are worth about $4.3 million.

c) An award-winning landmark, including an iconic council chambers and its artwork, that could be renovated with a new, more open design, and/or sold and repurposed.

Answer: b & c

Is City Hall too ugly and uninviting to renovate?

a) Nobody likes this building. Even mice won’t go there.

b) City buildings should be unattractive, indicating frugal government.

c) The 16-foot-long cedar slat façade would be gone in all the remodel designs we’ve seen. The building could be much more open and interesting and a showplace for Eugene.

Answer: c

Is City Hall obsolete and no longer up to code?

a) Every building in Eugene more than a few years old is out of date in terms of changes in building codes. Most historic buildings are “obsolete” even if they still provide function and value.

b) Some older buildings that were poorly constructed are not worth renovating, but City Hall’s massive foundation of reinforced concrete is still solid and can be seismically retrofitted. Likewise, the building can get efficient new heating and air conditioning, insulation and other energy upgrades.

c) Anything in this town not built by Phil Knight is obsolete, right?

Answer: a and b

Does tearing down and replacing City Hall conform to Eugene’s commitments to sustainability, energy efficiency and mitigating climate change?

a) It’s always a good idea to replace old buildings with new, more efficient ones.

b) There’s no such thing as climate change; it’s a liberal conspiracy.

c) The energy spent in grinding up a two-story block of reinforced concrete, then using all-new materials for a new City Hall would be immense. Energy is also embedded in the existing structure and it would be wasted. One architect estimates it could take 50 to 75 years to recoup the lost energy. Meanwhile, the old City Hall has a large roof that would accommodate many more photovoltaic panels than a tiny new City Hall.

Answer: c

true or false: The old City Hall is not accessible for the alter-abled?

a) True. City Hall is an atrocity when it comes to access for the alter-abled.

b) False. City Hall is more accessible by wheelchair than many buildings in Eugene. It has a good working elevator connecting the floors, plus an ADA-accessible ramp that was added to the west side of the building. More access could be added to other sides of the building at relatively low cost.

Answer: b, false

Where are city offices located now that City Hall is vacant?

a) In the old Diablo’s Downtown Lounge on Pearl Street, which has a whipping wall.

b) City staffers are all on extended vacation until City Hall is rebuilt.

c) In the County Courthouse and all around downtown. The city agreed in 2012 to sign 10-year leases for office space to assure lenders that private developers downtown would be able to make their loan payments. These leases cannot be sublet so the city is committed to paying $1.2 million a year for eight more years.

Answer: c

Is there a problem having city offices scattered around downtown?

a) City staff love seeing their boss, the city manager, only once a year.

b) Using the internet and email is better than face-to-face communication.

c) Having city offices centrally located benefits communication and oversight. In addition, the public appreciates centralized city services.

Answer: c

True or false: The ‘itty-bitty’ City Hall is just temporary.

a) True. Voters in Eugene are eager to pass a $50 million bond measure to fund the second phase of the new City Hall, just like they were happy to fund a new police palace.

b) False. Architect Otto Poticha (see drawing) figures the new quarter-block City Hall surrounded by parking will still look the same in 2050, only the trees in the parking lot will be much bigger, and at that point “the council will want a new building.”

Answer: b, false

Can City Hall be sold to private developers who would do something great with it?

a) False. The city manager says nobody wants to buy the building.

b) True. Local architects say the city manager’s office has received at least one query from a private developer. Meanwhile, the city has not issued any RFPs (request for proposals). The block could be renovated to become a shopping mall, hotel, housing, school, etc.

Answer: b, true (maybe)

True or false: we can trust this city government to do the right thing.

a) True. We elected them, they must be right!

b) False. Voters turned down two bond measures to build a new police department, so the city went ahead and depleted most of its facilities fund to buy and renovate a large office building north of the river on Country Club Road, taking 350 jobs out of downtown.

c) False. Our council and administration allowed the construction of the Capstone project eyesore downtown with $10 million in tax breaks. More tax breaks for private developers and expanded urban renewal districts are expected, despite their questionable value.

d) False. Tearing down City Hall could be the next ill-advised major decision with a big long-term impact on the city.

Answer: b, c, d, false. We appreciate local government but we need to keep a closer eye on it. See below.

Who actually made this decision?

a) The city manager and mayor claim the council made this decision and they are only following the direction of the council.

b) Jay Bozievich.

c) Under our outdated form of government, the unelected city manager and his staff control the flow of information to the council. A common complaint from councilors past and present is that they often make decisions without adequate information.

Answer: c