PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – After years of planning, funding approval and development, the new 17-story Multnomah County Court is set to open to the public early next year.
Recently, FOX 12 received an inside tour from the project’s lead architect, Bjorn Clouten of SRG Partnership.
Clouten showed the television crew some of the 44 brand new courtrooms that fill the building. In many, benches and jury chairs are now in place, microphones are set, big screen monitors are mounted, and temporary holding areas in the back are waiting for inmates.
But there is still much work to be done at the new Central Courthouse. It will replace the current, older court which has been deemed seismically and structurally obsolete by the county.
“Was there anything in mind, in particular, from an architectural point of view, that you wanted people to feel when they come in here?” asked FOX 12 reporter Tyler Dumont.
Clouten answered, “Yeah, absolutely. Certainly safety, openness, transparency.”
Clouten pointed towards the main entrance.
“Just to our right is the new security screening, which will have up to four scanning stations,” he said. “The current courthouse has two.”
Clouten said the entrance area will be glassed-in, allowing people walking or driving by to see inside.
“You’ll circulate through the lower portion where there’s a lot of construction materials right now, and then move from that out into this space, where there will be an information desk to help direct people, there will be a series of monitors that will provide the court docket,” he said.
Up in the tower part of the building – where most of the courtrooms, judges and jury rooms are – Clouten said it’s all about the waterfront view and natural lighting.
“On each of the court floors, as you come up the elevators, you’re again drawn out to the view of the river and then the connections to the courtrooms is along this public hallway,” Clouten said.
At its core, Clouten said the building has been designed to take on the “big one”: on its top 10 floors are large dampers, which he compares to shocks in a car that can help moderate swaying during an earthquake.
“While there still could be superficial damage, or inconvenient things to the building, the structure of the building would be serviceable,” he said.
On the second floor, a historic substation has been renovated to house four higher-volume courtrooms.
A coffee shop has also yet to be built on the third floor.
But while workers are still lugging around materials and walls haven’t even been put up on some floors, Clouten says the building will be ready on time.
"It’s opening spring of 2020 as they had planned,” he said.
The new courthouse has a price tag of nearly $325 million, funded by Multnomah County and the state of Oregon. In October, project leaders said they had already spent more than a third of those funds.
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