Historic courthouse replacement project breaks ground in Clackamas County

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Members of the Oregon Supreme Court, Clackamas County Circuit Court, Oregon State Legislature, Clackamas County Commission, and Clackamas Progress Partners celebrated the groundbreaking of a replacement courthouse in Clackamas County this morning.

The original courthouse in downtown Oregon City, built in 1936 when the county only had 50,000 residents, is functionally obsolete and can no longer serve the needs of the county’s 420,000+ residents.

Construction of the replacement courthouse is scheduled for completion in 2025.

“This effort started more than 30 years ago,” said Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith. “With the help of our state partners and the good fiscal management at the county, we are able to do this project without requiring any new taxes.”

Many officials, including U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, attended this morning’s event.  

Many bipartisan members of the Oregon State Legislature support the county’s efforts to complete the project.

“This process is the fruit of our labor, and our coming together,” stated Sen. Mark Meek. “We all have representing and working for the people of Clackamas County in common.”

Access to justice

The replacement courthouse’s location on the county’s Red Soils Campus in Oregon City will provide courthouse users with easy access to county resources including Social Services, Behavioral Health, Public Health, Juvenile, Veterans Services, and A Safe Place Family Justice Center.

Judicial community members say that the replacement courthouse will modernize the legal process and prevent delays in justice.

“On behalf of the court, I want to thank all the local leaders for making this possible,” stated Oregon Supreme Court Justice Stephen K. Bushong. “I can personally attest to how a new courthouse can increase access to justice.”

“The current courthouse is obsolete and unable to be technologically updated,” stated Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Kathie F. Steele. “It is sitting on soil that will liquify during an earthquake. The new courthouse will have 14 completed courtrooms, with room to expand.”

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek, who was unable to attend, sent a statement to be read at the ceremony:

“Thank you for the opportunity to share a few words with you as you break ground on what will become a representation of justice, accountability, and hope in Clackamas County. In 1936, the courthouse was built to serve a population of 50,000. In 2023, through the work of the Clackamas County and Clackamas Progress Partners, the creation of a courthouse meant to serve 420,000 and growing lies ahead of us.

“Mexican author Doménico Cieri Estrada said, ‘Bring the past only if you're going to build from it.’ Today marks an opportunity to do just that. Congratulations to all who worked to make today happen, and I look forward to completion of the project and celebrating an inclusive space for county residents to achieve justice.”

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, also unable to attend, provided the following statement:

“What a wonderful, historic occasion! It is important for every county in Oregon to commit to providing a safe and secure place for Oregonians to seek and – hopefully – to obtain justice. Congratulations to the people of Clackamas County upon taking this major step toward realizing this goal by breaking ground on your replacement courthouse. I look forward attending its dedication in 2025!”

Innovative project model leads to most cost-effective, low risk option for county and state

Clackamas Progress Partners, a consortium of organizations involved in more than 40 successful courthouse construction projects worldwide, will design, construct and maintain the replacement courthouse.

This partnership was the result of the county’s comprehensive analyses of alternatives that led to the most cost-effective, lowest-risk option for the county and state.

When the replacement courthouse is completed, it will mark the first time in Oregon state history that a courthouse building is delivered through a public-private partnership.

“The team we have assembled for this project are the best in their fields,” stated Clackamas Progress Partners’ Karl Schaefer.

Background on replacement courthouse

The current county courthouse has significant safety concerns and structural risks. Soil tests revealed the ground under the building could liquefy during an earthquake, as the courthouse sits just three feet from the Willamette River.

The courthouse construction will provide a big boost for our local economy and not require any new taxes. It will create hundreds of local jobs with competitive wages, and provide opportunities for local labor and businesses.

Clackamas Progress Partners are committed to hiring local disadvantaged, minority-owned, women-owned and service-disabled-veteran-owned businesses.

This project also supports the county’s goal to be carbon neutral in operations by 2050, and complies with the Oregon Green Energy Technology program. Design selections made by Clackamas Progress Partners in collaboration with Clackamas County focus on operations, security, technology, and sustainability. Best-practices in use of materials, systems and energy efficiency are embedded within the design to attain LEED Version 4.1 Gold Certification, which is the next generation standard for green building design, construction, operations and performance.

The courthouse project is participating in the Oregon Green Energy Technology in Public Buildings program, which will include technology to produce at least 25% of the building energy onsite. The use of mass timber adds to the county’s sustainability commitment and will bring an immediate connection to Oregon as community members enter the courthouse.

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