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Mike Thelin

Tear it down--build something that's worthy of being across the park from the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse.


I remember reading some time ago that they were either going to build a new courthouse downtown before the Urban Renewal District expires in 2006, or they were going to collapse the part of the building that appears to be built in a courtyard in the middle of the courthouse and build a 10 to 15 story tower in its place. Not only is the courthouse in a shoddy state, but the layout is confusing and inefficent.


I've spent a lot of time in the courthouse, and there's a lot to like underneath all the crap. Have you taken a look at the fifth-floor courtrooms?

I'd vote to restore it, like Portland did with City Hall. Rip out that add-on in the middle and restore the old interior courtyard. Get rid of the drop ceilings. Remove the two stories grafted onto the top. Bring back the two-story tall grand courtrooms. And the whole thing needs a seismic upgrade.

Of course, that leaves open the question of how to use it, since the building's nowhere close to big enough to handle the current workload of the Multnomah County court system. Realistically, the County needs a new, much bigger courthouse.

I wonder if it would be efficient from an operations standpoint to use the old courthouse for civil litigation and family law, and build a new criminal courthouse elsewhere?


The Oregon state bar magazine had a February 05 article about the poor state of Oregon court houses. You can find the article on a search of osbar.org. The article called the Multnomah court house "A tragedy waiting to happen." The courthouse had an "ingenious" design because it was "built in two, L-shaped sections" so in 1914 they could build half of it, move into that half, demolish the old courthouse and build the other L of the building on the site of the old courthouse. "It’s classed as a dangerous building," says Bray. "The seismic issue is absolutely life threatening." So it is nice to know that a magnitude 6 earthquake would cause the two L-shaped sections to "clang together" and cause the walls to buckle. I'm sure the county would continue to operate smoothly without a court system. The article continues on with more depressing info about the building. It appears the recommendation is to build a new courthouse with a $250 million price tag. Maybe it could happen if the architects can include some condos or a hotel over the new courthouse.

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