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'We have flexibility to start playing with the Legos': City, county mull options downtown

When it comes to the future of City Hall and the Lane County Courthouse, the City of Eugene and Lane County have 3 options, architect Larry Gilbert said Wednesday. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - When it comes to the future of City Hall and the Lane County Courthouse, the City of Eugene and Lane County have 3 options, architect Larry Gilbert said Wednesday.

  1. Build a new City Hall on the site of the former City Hall, which - $2 million later - has been demolished and reduced to a flat, gravel lot. This leaves Lane County to build a 9-story building on the butterfly parking lot.

  2. Phase 1 of the new City Hall shares the City Hall lot with a new Courthouse built in an L-shape.

  3. In a land swap, City Hall goes on the butterfly lot; the Courthouse goes up on the site of the former City Hall; and the former Courthouse becomes Phase 2 of the new City Hall.

Discussion on Wednesday didn't tread on dollars and cents. The government officials agreed to come back to the table November 14.

"We have flexibility to start playing with the Legos within these scenarios, but as others have said, I need to know what each Lego's basic cost is," Councilor Chris Pryor said.

"The layout is the only part we're seeing today," Councilor Mike Clark said, "but the costs are going to be important - and where does the parking go?"

The meeting Wednesday included public comment.

Angela Norman from the Lane County Farmers Market reiterated the organization's desire to stay put in the heart of downtown.

"The Farmers Market is in support of the options that would allow us to stay at the corner of 8th and Oak," she said. "These options provide the space needed to expand with our seasons."

Eugene resident Lonny McCulloch threw out another idea: co-locate the buildings at the Lane County Fairgrounds.

"Obviously you'd have to move the fairgrounds, but then you could have all city functions and all county functions in the same site," McCulloch said.

There are other variables at work in the deliberations.

The great, great grandson of Eugene Skinner says his ancestor donated the land where the butterfly lot now stands for use by the County, not the City.

The so-called "Skinner Restriction" from 1855 could prevent a land swap,

And the Eugene Water & Electric Board has begun talks to move its headquarters from the waterfront to Roosevelt Avenue, where the utility's operations shop is located.

The City Council has expressed interest in revisiting whether that building could be used as a City Hall.

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