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Eugene City Council approves purchase of EWEB building to use as a new City Hall

The former EWEB headquarters at the riverfront.
Brian Bull
Eugene's City Council voted 7-1 to purchase the former EWEB headquarters for $12 million.

Eugene is one step closer to getting a City Hall for the first time in more than a decade. The Eugene City Council voted 7-1 Monday night to approve the purchase of the former EWEB headquarters, based on terms negotiated earlier with the utility.

Under the agreement, the city will pay $12 million for the 4.4 acre riverfront property, located at 500 E. 4th Avenue. The site includes two buildings and a parking lot.

The old city hall building was deemed obsolete and closed in 2012. Since then, city workers have been spread out across the city and the council has met at Lane Community College’s downtown center.

According to information included in the city council agenda packet, discussions about a new city hall in Eugene have been under since at least 2001.

Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis praised the council’s decision to move forward with the purchase.

“It’s really sort of incredible to think we might actually resolve this City Hall question,” she said.

Some council members noted that the new city hall location is on the fringes of the downtown area, and worried about what that could mean for businesses that depend on city workers.

“I have to vote against this," said Emily Semple, who represents Ward 1, which includes a portion of downtown Eugene. "But at the same time, it’s difficult for me because I see all the advantages of where we’re going to go. And when I finally get my office with a window and a door, maybe I’ll feel differently.”

Third Ward Councilor Alan Zelenka, whose district includes the future city hall property, echoed those concerns but called it an opportunity to expand the traditional downtown area.

"I don't think we're leaving downtown as much as we're stretching it," he said. "I think this is a really good move for the city."

As recently as 2021, the Eugene City Council indicated it wasn't pursuing the purchase of the site, and other entities including the Eugene 4J School District expressed interest.

But the city and EWEB confirmed earlier in January that the two parties had resumed negotiations. City council members said Monday night that the new terms of the deal were far more agreeable to the city than the previous asking price.

In a press release, EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson called it a "unique opportunity" for the city.

“Selling the former headquarters property to the City is the sensible choice because it maintains public access to the site while minimizing the need for costly renovations,” he said.

EWEB said just a "handful" of employees still work at the facility, which was built in 1988. Most EWEB workers are now based at the utility's West Eugene operations center. Under terms of the deal, EWEB will still operate a small customer service center at the building.

The city expects to finalize the deal by July 1. No date has been announced for city offices to move into the new facility.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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