Clackamas County needs a new courthouse to effectively and safely serve the public.
The existing courthouse was built in Oregon City in 1936 for the county’s 50,000 residents – today the county is home to more than 420,000 people. After more than 80 years of patchwork upgrades to meet growing safety and capacity demands, our courthouse has become functionally obsolete. Critical improvements are needed that can no longer be met by this historic public building.
Clackamas County is proud to serve the public by working to build a new courthouse that improves access, is safe for both visitors and employees, resolves known seismic stability risks, and provides enough courtrooms so our judges can keep up with demand.
Timing is Everything
The state of Oregon has established a program that provides 50% in matching dollars to construct new courthouses. This program has already supported the construction of new courthouses in Jefferson and Multnomah counties, and Clackamas County has been prioritized as next in line.
The state has budgeted $33 million in match funds for the planning, design and early stage construction of the new Clackamas County Courthouse. The total project budget is still being developed based on the county’s ability to fund its 50% share, and will be approved by the Board of County Commissioners and the state before final design and construction begins.
Clackamas County is committed to securing these funds from the state by exploring multiple options to secure its share of the funding while minimizing impacts to other essential programs and services. Simply put, without the funding contribution from the state, it would be extremely difficult for the county to fund the full cost of a new courthouse, a fact the state legislature acknowledged in establishing the courthouse funding program.
Do we really need a new courthouse?
No one enters a courthouse on their best day, but if you are visiting, it’s the county’s job to ensure your safety. Here are a few things you might notice in the existing courthouse that warrant the need for replacement.
- Victims in close proximity to defendants in public areas and courtrooms
- Tight entrances, exits and security checkpoints mean it takes longer for people to get into and out of our courthouse exits and security checkpoints
- Exposed wires along walls, walkways, and seating areas
- Criminal defendants being transported in the same hallways as the public
- Poor ventilation throughout the building
- Overcrowded courtrooms
- Foundation issues from soil erosion on the rear of the building, along the bank of the Willamette River, making the building less seismically sound
Clackamas County’s Commitment
Build public trust through good government
Clackamas County provides a variety of services, and responsible use of public dollars is always at the front of our mind. We know trust begins with transparency, and we commit to providing updates during each phase of the project.
Grow a vibrant economy
In addition to jobs provided during construction, courthouses include a variety of public safety, administration, and social services careers. Courts also resolve business agreements and property transactions that help keep the economy moving.
Build a strong infrastructure
Long-term investments like the courthouse will last for decades, improving the experience for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of residents, community members, public safety officials, and victims that enter the courthouse each day.
Ensure safe, healthy, and secure communities
It’s the job of the courthouse to ensure everyone receives their day in court. Trial delays, proximity between the accused and their accusers, and hallways shared by criminal defendants and the public are just a few examples of the overwhelming public safety need.
Honor, utilize, promote, and invest in our natural resources
Clackamas County views public infrastructure investments through a lens of carbon neutrality, which includes the buildings we own and operate. A new courthouse allows the county to step closer to carbon neutrality by pursuing climate friendly building materials like cross-laminated timber and carbon neutral energy resources like solar power.
Recent Activity (updated January 2021)
In December 2020, Clackamas County Commissioners approved a plan to pursue a public-private partnership in which the private partner would finance, design and build the new courthouse.
A public-private partnership provides the best value in keeping with the County’s commitment to affordability. Clackamas County is requesting $94.5 million in matching bond funds from the 2021 Oregon Legislature, which represents the state’s final installment of funds toward the $189 million project. The state’s 50% matching funds of the estimated total cost of $189 million will be applied against the private financing after the new courthouse building is complete and ready for occupancy.
The 2019 Oregon Legislature provided $31.5 million in bond funding for design and engineering, which is being incorporated into the 2021 request due to project delays associated with COVID-19 and the 2020 wildfires. The 2017 Oregon Legislature provided $1.2 million in general fund dollars for initial planning of the new courthouse.
The Courthouse Replacement Project has four clear phases: planning, design & pre-construction, construction and relocation and opening. The new courthouse is anticipated to be complete and ready for occupancy in 2024.
Phase I: Planning
- Determine need for a new courthouse – Complete
- High-level estimate of space requirements for a new courthouse – Complete
- Initial and conservative cost projections provided to the state – Complete
- Secure USDA Wood Innovations Grant – Complete
- Explore Cross Laminated Timber design concepts and perform lifecycle analysis – Nearly complete
- Finalize Funding Plan and Project Affordability Target – In process
Phase II: Design and Pre-Construction
- Timeline: Estimated 18 months
Phase III: Construction
- Timeline: Estimated 30 months
Phase IV: Relocation and Opening
- Target 2024
Frequently Asked Questions
There are three main reasons for building a new courthouse: safety, delays in justice, and capacity.
- Significant safety concerns exist in today’s courthouse as a result of structural seismic deficiencies and failing building systems. The building will become uninhabitable in a sudden, unpredictable yet inevitable seismic event. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are functionally obsolete and in some cases beyond repair.
- The current courthouse was built in the 1930s and was designed with a single courtroom and a number of county offices. Today, the courthouse has been retrofitted to contain 11 courtrooms. Our existing caseload supports the need for 14 courtrooms, which the state judicial department has been willing to staff, however there is simply no room for further expansion. This gap between space availability and judicial needs leads to delays in justice.
- Capacity needs include separate and improved building circulation zones for in-custody defendants, judicial staff and the public so that these populations do not interact or come into close contact within the courthouse. Today, courthouse functions are spread among two separate buildings and parking access for courthouse staff, visitors and jury members is constrained and problematic.
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 for visitors, employees, jurors, and service providers and advocates
- Eliminate unnecessary risks where jurors, judges, and victims are within arm’s reach of one another, both in courtrooms and in hallways
- Meet capacity needs for our current population and accommodate 30 years of projected growth
- Improve parking and pedestrian access for ADA visitors, social service providers, and advocates
- Improve proximity to co-located services, such as social services, behavioral health, public health, juvenile services, and more
- Resolve seismic concerns with a modern facility and a new location
- Return the existing courthouse building to the market, where private development can restore and rehabilitate the space for Oregon City’s historic downtown main street
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
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
The county intends to build a courthouse that can adequately handle projected needs for the next 50 years and is compliant with features defined by the Oregon Judicial Department, who is funding 50% of the building cost. The county will want the new courthouse to meet the county’s green building policy guidelines. The size of the building and these requirements will influence the building’s ultimate cost to design, construct, operate and maintain. Our priorities will focus on safety, sustainability, and meeting the current and future needs of our growing community.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
The county does not have any current plans to re-purpose the existing courthouse for future county use. If that remains the case, the current courthouse will become surplus property and the likely scenario is that the county would seek a buyer willing to retain, modernize and occupy the building for a new use that is compatible with the interests of the City of Oregon City and historic downtown.62001
The total courthouse project cost will be funded equally by the state and the county with each contributing 50% of the project costs.
The state has budgeted $33 million for project planning, design and early stage construction. These funds are made available to the county on a reimbursement basis after the county provides the initial funds from local sources.
Clackamas County is committed to utilizing these funds provided by the state solely for use in constructing a new county courthouse, and is working hard to identify the local share of the funding necessary to access these state funds. Without the partnership from the state, it would be near impossible for the county to build a new courthouse as evidenced by multiple failed efforts dating back to the 1960s when the current courthouse was first deemed obsolete.62001
Many revenue sources that come to Clackamas County are mandated to use specific ways. For example, because road funds can only come from dedicated road funding sources – like gas taxes and vehicle registration fees – the funding can only be used on roads.62001
Interested Vendor Information
The county is not accepting unsolicited sales information at this time. Please check this website regularly for project updates.
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).
Wood Innovation Grant
Clackamas County was awarded $100,000 from the U.S. Forest Service as part of the 2019 Wood Innovation Grant program. The funds are being administered by Clackamas County’s Economic Development team, supporting work by 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 prepared six courthouse designs incorporating mass timber elements. Two designs were then selected to 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.
- 2019 Legislative Report (pg. 10-12; 74-85)
- 2017 Legislative Report (pg. 13-14; 51-71; 131-142)
- Final Report: National Center for State Courts
- Mass Timber Courthouse Designs funded by the Wood Innovation Grant
- Project Fact Sheet (Updated January 2021)
- Red Soils Master Plan