Clackamas County’s courthouse was built in 1936 to house county offices and a single courtroom. All the county offices have been relocated, and in their place 10 additional courtrooms have been retrofitted into a building designed for a single courtroom.
While it continues to serve hundreds – sometimes thousands – of residents daily, the facility has been pushed to its limits and can no longer be remodeled to safely meet the demands of our ever-increasing population. While the safety of families, victims, children, visitors and staff is of greatest concern, due to limited resources, we cannot ensure justice is served as expediently as our community deserves.
The Overwhelming Need
Factoring in population growth, the significant safety risks, and current impediments, replacement of the courthouse is needed as soon as possible. Primary reasons include:
- Lack of security/safety: Our current courthouse was never designed to house multiple courtrooms and the current configuration with 11 courtrooms forces victims to be right next to defendants in public areas and courtrooms themselves. Families of perpetrators can be next to witnesses causing concern for safety and witness intimidation. Jurors have no assembly room on site, leaving them potentially exposed to improper communications.
- Delays of justice: There are not enough courtrooms to serve our region’s population.
- Yet, our current courthouse doesn’t have enough room for additional courtrooms or judges, which leads to a backlog of cases and heartbreaking delays in hearings, trials and ultimately resolutions. These delays have a real effect on people, like mothers seeking child support.
- It’s obsolete: Equipment used at the courthouse is far past its useful life, and operating expenses are incurred keeping the building systems running to a moderately acceptable degree. A failure is inevitable.
- Seismic and geographic risk: The courthouse was not built to modern seismic standards, and investing capital dollars in seismic retrofitting of a building that is too small to meet current and future demand is not a prudent decision. Further, the current courthouse is now less than one yard away from an eroding bank of the Willamette River.
The Tremendous Opportunity
The time to act is now. The state of Oregon has established a fund that can provide matching dollars toward the construction of a new courthouse. In 2017, the Legislature provided the county with $1.2 million for project planning costs. In 2019, the Legislature authorized $31.5 million in state bond funds for the project – funds contingent upon Clackamas County securing a local match.
Altogether, the state could cover $95 million in eligible project costs toward the estimated $230 million project.
If Clackamas County doesn’t match this money with local dollars, we would lose out on this immense partnership opportunity with the state.
- Update (2/13/20): Last October, the Board of County Commissioners authorized staff to consider a Public-Private Partnership, or P3, as an alternative approach to financing, designing, building and maintaining the new county courthouse. IMG Rebel was engaged to provide an analysis of a traditional approach of public financing/project delivery for the courthouse compared to several alterative options, including a public-private partnership (P3) which has been used in the U.S. and internationally to successful design, build and maintain courthouses and other public buildings. The Board of County Commissioners will be presented the results of the IMG Rebel analysis at a Policy Session on February 18, 2020 followed by another Study Session on March 10, 2020 to evaluate options and provide direction on the project.
The county’s population was slightly more than 50,000 when the courthouse opened in 1937. Our population (in 2019) is north of 415,000.62001
Our current courthouse is outdated, and was originally designed with a single courtroom and county offices. It has been remodeled countless times to accommodate 11 courtrooms.
Further, it was not built to modern seismic standards, and retrofitting for seismic events is not a prudent decision if it no longer meets the needs of the community. A recent appraisal indicates the building is at the end of its economic life. The building also forces victims of violence to come into contact in hallways with the same people who committed crimes against them. This is intimidating for witnesses and victims, and creates an overall safety issue for all courthouse users.
Lastly, because of the safety issues, the county is requesting half of the construction costs for the new courthouse from the State, creating a one-time opportunity to get this accomplished at minimal cost to the residents of Clackamas County.
Please see the Project Fact Sheet for more.62001
No. Our current buildings at the Red Soils Campus are at capacity, and none were designed to meet the specialized needs of a courthouse – which requires specialized features such as isolated circulation zones. Further, a remodeling of any existing building to be adequate for courtrooms would be a terribly inefficient use of taxpayer dollars.62001
The current plan allows for a 215,000 square foot courthouse that features 16 courtrooms, 20 judicial chambers, adequate space for the District Attorney’s Office, public/staff screening areas, administrative space, jury assembly spaces, secure loading/staging spaces, enhanced prisoner transfer facilities, Grand Jury space, safe corridors for courthouse users, and secure holding cells for violent offenders.
Plus, by moving to the Red Soils Campus, courthouse users will now only be steps away from departments such as: Social Services; Behavioral Health; Public Health; Juvenile; Veterans Services; and the Family Justice Center. This means that people don’t have to drive all over town to access the various functions of county government, and proximity will improve efficiency and collaboration between these different public service agencies.62001
No. Simply put, we need more space for enough judges and courtrooms – right now we have enough of a population for 3 additional judges to handle, but we have no space for them or courtrooms, which leads to serious delays in justice.62001
A new courthouse will:
- Improve safety, as the current courthouse was never designed to have so many courtrooms therefore victims of violence are forced to come into contact in hallways with the same people who committed those crimes
- Create a more responsive and efficient local justice system, greater measures of safety for victims, and increased accessibility
- Place residents steps away from other important co-located services, such as social services, behavioral health, public health, and more.
We’re at the end of the planning phase, during which we’ve determined our future needs. We’ve also begun our initial relocating of some county operations to accommodate a new courthouse on our Red Soils campus.
With the recent state funding, the next phase is Design and Pre-Construction, which we estimate will take 18 months.
Last, we’ll move into the Construction and Relocation phase, which should take another three years or so to complete.
We anticipate the Grand Opening to occur in late 2023. Please see our Construction Schedule for more.62001
The public defender needs a space separate from the courthouse facility, and Clackamas County does not have legal aid.62001
The increase is due to rising costs for construction materials and other construction-related items.62001
There are two types of Juvenile Court – delinquency and dependency. The new courthouse will hold the dependency portion, which is currently operated out of the existing courthouse.
Delinquency is operated from the Juvenile building on the Red Soils Campus (in close proximity to the new courthouse) and will remain there.62001
Absolutely not. County Commissioners have no desire to have a courthouse that has unnecessarily opulent features. Rather, they seek to build a courthouse as efficiently as possible. That means building one that’s safe, modern and meets the needs of the population.
Further, commissioners have directed that Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) be used in the construction of the new courthouse to align with the county’s Forest Economic Development and Sustainability policies. The county recently was awarded $100,000 from the U.S. Forest Service to consider how CLT could be used in the construction of a new county courthouse.62001
Yes! Rather than being located in downtown Oregon City with extremely limited parking options, the new courthouse will have great access to public transit and ample parking. The county will comply with all Oregon City parking requirements for the campus.62001
There is nothing in the county’s plans to tear the current building down. Our current position is that the building will become surplus property once the new courthouse is built. There is no intended future use by the county, and the building will likely be sold to a new owner who commits to remodeling and refurbishing the building for new uses.62001
The county is taking advantage of a one-time opportunity and requesting half of the construction costs for the new courthouse from the State of Oregon. Doing so would accomplish this task at minimal cost to the residents of Clackamas County.
In July 2019, the state agreed to match $31.5 million for the second phase of the project, Design and Pre-Construction. State funding is contingent upon Clackamas County securing funds for the local share of the project. County officials are currently exploring various local funding options, which may include a voter-approved bond measure.
The total courthouse project cost is estimated at $230 million, of which the county will be responsible for approximately $135 million. The state is expected to provide its final funding in the 2021 legislative session for the remainder of the cost.62001
Road funds, by law, are completely separate from courthouse funds. Road funds can only come from dedicated road funding sources (state gas tax, vehicle registration fees), and these funds can only go to roads.62001
Clackamas County is fully committed to funding construction of a new courthouse.62001
Interested Vendor Information
Clackamas County is currently in the process of determining the best procurement/contract method for the new county courthouse project.
The Board of County Commissioners has directed that Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) be used in the construction of the new courthouse to align with the county’s Forest Economic Development and Sustainability policies. A county task force has researched the inclusion of CLT for the project and that research will inform the proposed contracting method.
The county has not retained a primary design or construction firm for the project. Once Requests for Proposals are issued, all formal solicitations for the project will be posted on the County Bid and Contract Information page as well as on the Oregon Public Information Network (ORPIN).
The county is not accepting unsolicited sales information at this time. Please check this website regularly for project updates.
Wood Innovation Grant
Clackamas County was recently awarded $100,000 from the U.S. Forest Service as part of the 2019 Wood Innovation Grant program. The funds are being used by #ClackCo’s Economic Development Division, working with the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Oregon State University’s Tallwood Design Institute, to consider how cross-laminated timber, or mass timber, could be used in the construction of a new county courthouse.
Students in the University of Oregon fall 2019 Design Studio will prepare up to five courthouse designs incorporating mass timber elements. The top selected design will then undergo a Life Cycle Analysis that will include consideration of cost differences and environmental benefits of using mass timber compared with more traditional materials in the construction. The results are expected in spring 2020.
- Final Report: National Center for State Courts
- Project Fact Sheet (Updated August 2019)
- 2017 Legislative Report (pg. 13-14; 51-71; 131-142)
- 2019 Legislative Report (pg. 10-12; 74-85)