The Multnomah County Sheriffs Office after decades of dealing with mold and other maintenance problems at its Hansen Building in outer Northeast Portland is looking east for a new home for its law enforcement hub.
A county committee has spent the last three years studying possible new sites and narrowed its focus to three top contenders, said Chief Deputy Jason Gates, who is on the site committee.
They include the 72,000-square-foot Toppan Photomask building, formerly known as the DuPont Photomask building, at Northeast 242nd Drive and Glisan Street in Gresham; the OIA global headquarters at 17230 N.E. Sacramento St., in an industrial area of Greshams Wilkes East neighborhood; and a vacant parcel in Fairview south of Northeast Halsey Street between Market Drive and Village Street, just east of Target.
While moving to a new building is great news for county staff who work in the Hansen Building many complain of health problems due in part to the structures deplorable condition others are less thrilled.
Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis opposes the Toppan building the site most favored by the site committee because its on a prime piece of industrial land adjacent to the Gresham Vista Business Park.
The Port of Portland bought the $26.5 million property from LSI Semiconductor in late 2011. It is considered ideal for trade sector investment, and the port is working with the city to develop it into a job center for clean technology, manufacturing, food processing and other professional services.
The hope is that it spurs economic growth and provides about 2,700 new jobs to local communities.
Earlier this year, the parks eastern 116 acres, composed of five developable lots, achieved industrial site certification making it part of the states inventory of project-ready industrial land.
To the west is ON Semiconductor, and in the upper eastern corner sits the 12-acre Toppan property.
Given its proximity to the business park, Bemis said he just cant support it as a site to replace the Hansen Building.
Economic development focus
While I am obviously supportive of public safety, I dont support turning a critical piece of economic development land into a government building, Bemis said. The potential for new investment and job growth at that location is too important. Wed be happy to work with the county to help identify some other opportunities in East County.
The land is zoned for industrial use and the city would need to approve a special use permit in order for it to be used for a government building. The property also is in one of Greshams six enterprise zones created to attract industrial development.
Companies moving to those areas that meet certain benchmarks capital investment, number of jobs, pay, benefits pay no property taxes on qualifying new investments for three to five years.
Gresham also used more than $2 million in federal stimulus dollars to widen Southeast 242nd Drive and make other improvements, partly in an effort to attract companies and industry to the Toppan property, as well as the Vista Business Park.
As for the building itself, Texas-based DuPont Photomask built it in 1998 in what was billed as the second wave of technology companies to crest in Oregon.
Instead, a recession struck the sector, and further investments needed to make the structure fully operational were never made.
In 2005, Toppan Printing bought DuPont Photomask and its assets, including the empty, never used Gresham building, forming Toppan Photomask. Toppan, however, has never used the plant for manufacturing. A few companies expressed interest in buying it but ended up either locating elsewhere or going bankrupt.
Sacramento Street site
While the Toppan property may have ranked No. 1 with the countys site committee, a structure at 17230 N.E. Sacramento St. in Gresham came in at No. 2.
It houses the headquarters for OIA Global, a worldwide transportation, supply chain management and packaging-solutions provider based out of the building. On Monday, Sept. 9, the company announced it is moving its headquarters to a building in downtown Portlands south waterfront district.
Gates said the county is still comparing the pros and cons of each property, in addition to a third option building a new facility on vacant land in Fairview Village just east of Target.
The price has come down substantially on the Toppan building, from $12.5 million in 2010 to between $7 million and $8 million today, Gates said. But at 72,000 square feet it is more space than the sheriffs office needs.
The Sacramento building is 59,000 square feet, much closer to the 52,000 square feet the sheriffs office is looking for. At an asking price of between $4 million and $5 million, its also less expensive. It too is zoned for industrial use.
Both buildings are considered better located for the countys purposes.
The sheriffs office wants to move farther east to better serve the area it covers in unincorporated Multnomah County. Wood Village and Maywood Park also contract with the sheriffs office for patrols, and the Toppan property is just across the street from Wood Villages southern boundary.
Back in 1976 when the Hansen Building opened, Northeast 122nd Avenue and Glisan Street was considered centrally located, Gates said. Now, 181st is considered a good central location, he said.
It is too early to tell what it would cost to retrofit either site or how much constructing a new building on vacant land would cost.
Relocating the Hansen Building has been championed several times in the last 20 years. Former county commission chairwoman Diane Linn in 2006 vowed to relocate staff working in the building within six months following a study that found poor air quality, mold and a high potential for earthquake damage, not to mention cracks and leaks in the basement.
This time around, the project wont be tabled, Gates said.
Sheriff Dan Staton wants to select a site by December and moved in within the next 18 months, Gates said.
Were not looking for the Taj Mahal, Gates said. Were asking for no more black mold, asbestos and a better earthquake rating.
Intended to be temporary
The Hansen Building was a temporary facility when it opened 37 years ago. Weve been trying to get out of it ever since, Gates said. That building is an embarrassment.
Diane McKeel, who represents East Multnomah County on the countys board of commissioners, agreed. It is not a suitable building for staff to be in, she said.
In 2004, the county listed it as surplus property, a designation typically reserved for larger chunks of land or buildings no longer considered useful to the county that could be sold.
The designation was made in part to pave the way to fund a new courthouse in East County. Like the Hansen Building, the old courthouse in Gresham was overcrowded, run-down and in such disrepair that sewage pipes routinely backed up, requiring the county to bring in portable toilets.
A new courthouse opened in 2012 in Greshams Rockwood neighborhood.
How the county would pay for a new building has not been determined, but selling the Hansen Building property could be built into the financing plan.
With so many decisions yet to be made on the project, one thing is clear, Gates said. The sheriffs office needs a new building to house the central hub for its entire law enforcement division.
Because the toilets are below sewer level, the building has a similar problem to that at the old courthouse. A sump pump directs wastewater to the sewer system, but during heavy rains, the basement floods with sewage.
When asked how many times this has happened, Gates paused.
Several, he said.
Boilers that heat the building cant be upgraded to modern standards. The wiring is ancient, causing problems with everything from computers to the outdated phone system.
The Hansen Building does not include a booking facility for inmates, but ideally, the new facility would. Now, the county uses a temporary booking facility based out of the Gresham Police Department to house alleged criminals until they can be transported to the Justice Center Jail in downtown Portland.
The new building would also have a better multi-purpose emergency operations center for coordinating major investigations or response.