The city of Bend is still on the hunt for a potential new location for city hall, and so far 28 sites have been researched.
On Wednesday, the Bend City Council will receive an update from the real estate group Cushman & Wakefield about the search for a property suitable for a new city hall. Cushman & Wakefield has been looking in the city’s core area, which encompasses the area around U.S. Highway 97 as far north as Division Street and about as far south as Wilson Avenue, and the Bend Central District, which is the area east of the highway to Fourth Street. Downtown Bend is also being considered.
The search for a new site for city hall was prompted by a 2015 assessment, which concluded that in 50 years the city would need roughly 80,000 to 100,000 square feet to accommodate growth, said Facilities Director Grant Burke.
For perspective, the existing downtown complex of city buildings is 46,000 square feet, and staffing at the city has grown by 60% since 2015.
But a new era of remote work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic could alter the size of property that is needed, and several things like proximity to transit, the availability of parking opportunities and the ability to share space with other public entities are all things that are being considered, Burke said.
“We are looking for properties that serve not just the city but folks in the community as well,” Burke said.
Burke said the real estate group is currently looking at sites that are greater than 1½ acres. Both vacant and developed land have been considered, though due to the nature of the areas, large parcels of vacant land are few and far between, he said.
That puts the city in the position of possibly acquiring and developing multiple smaller properties all adjacent to each other, he said.
“We don’t want to displace anyone that has a vibrant, thriving business,” Burke said.
Other factors include walkability, impacts to traffic and the opportunity to economically stimulate a region of town, Burke said. The vision of the Bend Central District for years has been to revitalize the area by making it a denser, more walkable area with a mix of businesses and housing.
The current downtown campus is also being evaluated through this process to see if it makes financial sense to reconstruct a new city hall on existing city-owned property, he said.
‘We really have to look at what we have downtown and see if it meets our criteria that we are applying elsewhere, and if it does, it’s certainly on the table,” Burke said.
Parking costs are also a consideration. For a site that is an acre and a half, a city hall would likely need to be a multistory building with additional parking somewhere off site.
A separate parking garage could be costly to build on its own, Burke said. But locating with another public agency that could also benefit from more office or parking space is another option the city is considering when looking for a new site, Burke said.
Burke said the timeline for a new city hall could be between two to five years, depending on several factors.
“Each will have a unique timeline depending on how complex the site is. Is it a big chunk of land with one owner? Or is it complex and include several properties owned by different folks and we have to spend time negotiating to secure that property?” Burke said.
This topic will be discussed during the City Council’s virtual work session, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.