Screenshot from February 2021 property sale announcement

City Hall on the River

After years of waffling, the city goes after former EWEB Building on riverfront

The city of Eugene could soon have a City Hall with a view of the Willamette River. 

On the afternoon of Jan. 18, Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) suddenly announced the decision to negotiate the purchase of its former riverfront headquarters property with the city of Eugene. The decision comes after months of EWEB searching for someone to purchase the building on property that will soon have housing and market developments. It also comes nearly a decade after the city demolished its brick and mortar City Hall, and years of discussion and negotiations over how and if it should be replaced.

“We’re pleased to pursue negotiations with the city of Eugene on this property that is vitally important to the whole community,” EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson said in a Jan. 18 press release. “Having the city as a potential buyer provides the opportunity to achieve a City Hall and consolidate city services with significant savings to the community. Based on the city’s plan, only minor changes to the building are required, making the city’s vision inspiring, practical, and achievable.”

The Eugene City Council and EWEB both held executive sessions to discuss a property sale. Oregon law allows media outlets to attend executive sessions but cannot report on what was said. 

“The EWEB headquarters has the potential to be a responsible, smart location for multiple city services, including a permanent City Hall, that builds on previous investments, maintains a public asset and potentially saves taxpayers significant dollars in both the short and long term,” Eugene City Manager Sarah Medary said in a Jan. 18 press release. “At the same time, this location increases public access to the historic riverfront property.”

The announcement also came about a week after Eugene School District 4J announced its own intentions to bid on the 4.4 acre riverfront property. 

In February 2022, EWEB first announced its intent to sell the property. The EWEB Board of Commissioners had considered previous applications during a previous request for proposal cycle, including ones from Brian Obie and the Eugene Science Center. Since the request for proposals didn’t generate support from EWEB’s commissioners, they authorized Lawson to negotiate the sale of the property. 

Having a City Hall in the former EWEB building has long been advocated for by Eugene Councilor Mike Clark for the past 10 years. Shortly after the decision was announced, Clark posted on Facebook to celebrate the news. 

“After about a decade and a half of me making a general nuisance out of myself at the council table over advocacy of this; happy to say we are finally heading in the right direction,” he said.

The city of Eugene has been looking for a city hall solution since it tore down its historic building in 2014. According to previous reporting by Eugene Weekly, in 2015, the city learned that building a new city hall would cost about $25 million. As of 2022, city interim spokesperson Cambra Jacobson told EW that the city had $13.9 million saved for city hall expenses. 

In January 2021, the city announced that it would move intoLane Community College’s downtown campus. Jacobson told EW that the city would pay about $14,500 a month in the first year of the lease and about $16,000 a month in the second year of the lease. Beginning Dec. 1, the amount would increase 3 percent per year. 

In the 2022 interview with Mayor Lucy Vinis, she told EW that the decision to build a new City Hall on its former site, near the newly constructed Farmers Market Pavilion, or to stay in a deal with Lane Community College’s downtown campus would be up to the Eugene City Council. 

According to the Jan. 18 press release from the city of Eugene, the Eugene City Council plans to discuss terms of the purchase at future meetings. 

For more information about Eugene City Council meeting dates, visit here.

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