City Hall Land Swap Discussions Continue

Some ideas about how a new City Hall

Otto Poticha’s proposed land swap strategy

The only thing certain about Eugene City Hall right now is that the city doesn’t have one. What the city does have are some ideas about how a new City Hall can be integrated into planning the land swap with Lane County.

The old City Hall building was torn down last year, and the price for building a new one is mounting. After the latest bid came in from McKenzie Commercial Contractors for $18.2 million, about $3 million more than anticipated — bringing the total cost up to around $28 million factoring in design and demolition — the Eugene City Council voted 7-1 to reject the bid at a July 18 meeting.

The original budget was set for around $15 million, and then it became $18 million. Currently the city is more than $10 million over budget.

In the midst of the city’s wrangling over cost, Lane County proposed in early July that rather than utilize the eastern half of the City Hall block for its new courthouse, the county could use either the entire City Hall block or at least three-quarters of it. That would put a new City Hall on the “butterfly lot,” to be shared with an expanded farmers market.

The butterfly lot, sitting between 7th and 8th avenues and West Park and Oak streets, is so-called because the parking structure has slanted wings rising up from the ground.

Architect Otto Poticha, who was one of the many opponents to completely razing the previous City Hall, contacted Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz, Lane County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky and the City Council and County Commission with a proposal that he calls “the Consolidated City-County Master Plan.”

Poticha, who designed the county’s Public Services Building, writes that his plan is a “possible solution for solving the current City Hall and County Courthouse situation in a collaborative and integrated manner.” He uses the term “consolidated” to “suggest what would become a true and integrated city-county governmental center” and also lead to a restored North Park Block. Poticha says integrated use, such as putting the city’s Municipal Court in the County Courthouse building, could also make it easier for Lane County to get state funding for a new courthouse.

According to Poticha, his strategy would bring energy to the Park Blocks area. Those blocks house Saturday Market on the weekend and a farmers market on Tuesdays, but the rest of the week the open space faces the dull backs of city buildings.

The plan would put City Hall on the northern part of the butterfly lot, together with a seasonal farmers market structure and a market square.

A new 250,000-square-foot County Courthouse would be at the old City Hall location. The new courthouse could be connected to the existing County Public Service Building by a bridge.

The old, smaller County Courthouse could be renovated into a city services building at half the cost of building a proposed second phase of City Hall, Poticha says, and it could be connected by another bridge to the first phase City Hall. Finally, the city and county could continue to share Harris Hall for meetings. And as part of the plan, the North Park Blocks would be restored, “forming the the heart of a new downtown civic and market center,” according to architect Jerry Diethelm who supports the proposal.

Poticha tells EW that while the current proposed City Hall design could be placed in the new location, he thinks there is an opportunity to design a City Hall that fits the context of the new location.

EW reached out to Ruiz and Mokrohisky for comments on Poticha’s proposal. Mokrohisky responded that the proposal is similar to one of the scenarios the county commission shared and discussed with the city, and “we are pleased to see community members involved and offering ideas and solutions they feel create a great civic center and maximize the public benefit.”

Jan Bohman, the city’s communications manager responded for Ruiz, also saying the proposal was similar to a county proposal and that the City Council “indicated a willingness to continue a discussion with Lane County but did not make any decision about how that could occur.” Bohman says that beyond rejecting the bid from the contractor, “The council did not make any further decisions but indicated they will talk about it again this coming Monday, July 25.”

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