Design Commission approves Multnomah County Health Dept HQ (images)

The Design Commission has approved the new Multnomah County Health Department Headquarters, which will house clinical functions, associated workplaces, and administrative offices for the department. The 9-story, 157,000 sq ft building by ZGF Architects will rise to a height of 145’-4 1/2”.  At the ground level the building will include a pharmacy and work space, a “gallery” facing the street, and a potential lease space. Floors 2 to 4 will be occupied by clinic and clinic administration spaces. Floors 5 to 9 will mostly be occupied by office space, with a south facing terrace at the 9th floor. The majority of roof area will be covered by an ecoroof. No vehicular parking is proposed. A bike room, with 55 parking spaces, will be accessed from NW Hoyt Street.

The half block site at NW 6th & Hoyt is currently vacant land, owned by the City of Portland Housing Bureau.  The Bureau intends to convey the property to Multnomah County at no cost. The western half of the block is occupied by Bud Clark Commons, a housing and resource center for the homeless which opened in 2011. In 2015 the Portland City Council increased the maximum allowable height on the site from 75′ to 150′ through a Zoning Map Amendment.

Primary exterior materials for the building include precast concrete, stucco, light colored norman brick, aluminum windows, painted metal panel, box rib metal panel and aluminum windows.

The project was approved by the Design Commission at their November 10th meeting. The Final Findings And Decision By The Design Commission concluded that the project is a “considered response” to the nearby Union Station and adjacent Bud Clark Commons:

The subject site is located adjacent to the historic Union Station to the north; and Chinatown- Japantown and Skidmore-Old Town historic districts to the south-east. The 150’ tall Romanesque Revival clock tower on Union Station has been an important icon for the city of Portland since 1896. It marks one of the city’s most important gateways and terminates the important transit mall axis along Sixth Avenue. The proposed development will also be distinctly visible while entering and existing the NW Broadway Bridge on the north. Thus this important site acts not only as the gateway to downtown Portland and the Pearl district to the east, but will also set the standard for a significant amount of future development in this neighborhood.

The design review process exists to promote the conservation, enhancement, and continued vitality of areas of the City with special scenic, architectural, or cultural value. The ZGF design team pursued early Design Advice Request [DAR] with the Portland Design Commission on April 14, 2016 [primary focus on context, massing, coherency, ground floor activation, loading]. Since then the ZGF team has held three Design Commission hearings on September 22, 2016, November 3, 2016 and November 10, 2016. Over the course of this review critical issues regarding response to context, coherent west elevation and ground floor activation have been successfully resolved.

As now designed, the Multnomah County Health Headquarters building provides a considered response to the adjoining historic Union Station and Bud Clark Commons and meets with the design guidelines, and therefore merits approval.

A building permit is currently under review for the project.


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