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City Hall Costs Go Up, Timeline Lengthens

The projected cost of Eugene’s new City Hall has now risen after city councilors requested that city staff look into boosting the new four-story structure’s ability to withstand a severe earthquake. 

“We asked the city manager to investigate looking into that standard. He said, ‘Yeah, but it’ll cost more,’” said Councilor Alan Zelenka in an interview with EW. The conversation on altering City Hall’s structure took place at the last City Council meeting in December, he says.  

Zelenka said council members want to upgrade the building’s seismic resistance from the “life safety” standard to the “essential facility” standard, because of the recently well-publicized threat of a major West Coast earthquake in a New Yorker article.

The “life safety” standard, set by the Oregon Structural Specialty Code, allows people to get out safely in the event of a major earthquake. The “essential facility” standard allows people to get out safely and keeps the building functioning after the quake. 

“It’s designed to not only allow people to safely get out of the building, but it would still be functioning after a seismic event of some scale,” says city spokesperson Jan Bohman of the new standard. She later added that the city doesn’t yet know how much the new upgrade will add to the existing $15 million construction cost of the site.  The city will select the winning bid for the construction this spring.

“I can tell you that when the City Council reviewed the schematic design, and in conversations since, given all the increased knowledge and awareness of potential seismic events here, councilors have indicated an interest in upgrading the seismic standard of the building,” Bohman wrote in an email to EW.

One of the major criticisms of the old City Hall at East 8th Avenue was its lack of earthquake readiness. The original 50-year-old City Hall building was demolished in early 2015, amid a sustained and heated community protest to keep the structure intact and instead renovate its existing features for what was said to be a lesser price tag — a projected $12 million. 

Additionally, the completion of the new City Hall at East 8th Avenue is now delayed by a year; it was scheduled to be finished by the end of 2016, according to the timeline on the city’s website. Bohman now says it will be about two years, the end of 2017, until the doors open on the new building. 

The new plans for City Hall still include space for a public plaza (complete with a water fountain) and parking lot on the west side of the block. Lane County’s Board of Commissioners floated the idea of building a new county courthouse on the same site as City Hall at a public hearing with the Eugene City Council in June 2014. 

There are no approved plans yet to build a new courthouse next to the new City Hall.