Vance Walker, left, Oregon City assistant Public Works director, and Brandon Dole, Scott | Edwards Architecture project manager, visit the site being transformed into an operations center. (Chuck Slothower/DJC)
Oregon City, having outgrown its downtown operations center, sought about 10 acres of land within the city for the Public Works department.
A parcel that large was tough to come by. So city officials jumped at the opportunity to buy the former General Distributing Inc. property (later purchased and closed by Columbia Distributing) for $7.1 million in April 2019. The 4.8-acre property includes a 53,000-square warehouse with a high ceiling. Soon the structure will hold the city’s dump trucks and backhoes, instead of beer trucks.
Emerick Construction is transforming the existing warehouse and a 26,000-square-foot office building in an adaptive reuse project designed by Scott | Edwards Architecture. Workers broke ground in September, and completion is expected in fall 2021.
The property sits in an industrial area south of downtown Oregon City at 13895 Fir St. Crews are conducting interior demolition of the office building and preparing to renovate the warehouse.
The building’s origins are unclear, dating to perhaps the 1960s, said Brandon Dole, project manager for Scott | Edwards Architecture. The tilt-up concrete structure has been expanded several times, leaving differing floor heights for sections of the second floor and other oddities.
Crews will rebuild the office building’s façade. A new lobby will lead to a long hallway serving the rear of the building. Oregon City government officials wanted to provide a public face for visitors, Dole said.
“The building, when you come in, should be very welcoming and should be very light and airy,” he said.
Scott | Edwards Architecture has developed a specialty in public works facilities, recently designing projects for Tualatin, Wilsonville, Florence and Cornelius.
Reuse of the existing structure reduced costs from approximately $450 per square foot to $250-$300 per square foot, Dole said. The overall project budget is $12.8 million, including $10.2 million in hard construction costs.
Oregon City had been planning the project since 2005, so the city saved money for it over time. No new bonds or tax increase was necessary to pay for the project.
Oregon City Public Works is expected to move next year into an existing warehouse and office building now receiving renovations. (Scott | Edwards Architecture)
The site is smaller than the city had wanted, so some equipment and storage will have to remain off-site. Nevertheless, it represents a vast improvement, said Vance Walker, assistant director of Public Works.
“This facility is going to be so incredibly better than what we’re currently in,” he said.
In addition to operations, the facility will host personnel and equipment from Public Works’ engineering division and parks maintenance. A fuel island will remain to service Public Works vehicles. The site also has two 10,000-gallon fuel tanks left by the beverage distributor.
The operations center is being built to remain functional after a sizable earthquake or other natural disaster. Public Works needs to be able to clear roads for first responders in an emergency, Dole said.
“Even though this isn’t a designated emergency operations center, it has to function like one,” he said.
The future of the existing operations center, at 122 S. Center St., is a topic of much discussion in Oregon City. A neighborhood association in 2016 sued the city in an attempt to get the upper yard area declared a park. The Clackamas County Circuit Court sided with Oregon City, and Public Works continued to use the property to store equipment.
Neighbors continue to advocate for turning the property into a park, but the city may want to retain some or all of it for government use. That’ll be determined after Public Works moves out, according to a city official.
“Once they totally transition to the new facility, our commissioners will be able to move forward with how to proceed on that site,” Oregon City spokeswoman Kristin Brown said.
At the Fir Street site last week, workers from subcontractor UWB PreBuild were ripping apart walls. They weren’t the first: Before demolition began, Oregon City’s SWAT team asked and received permission to train inside the building. The project team just asked the officers not to damage the exterior walls.
Project: Public Works operations center
Owner/client: City of Oregon City
Architect: Scott | Edwards Architecture
General contractor: Emerick Construction
Budget: $12.8 million
Title: Ex-private property becoming a public asset
Author: Chuck Slothower
Date: October 13, 2020