With funding in place and a timeline for construction becoming clearer, designers and architects asked members of the community last week to help them design a new downtown home for the Lake Oswego Police Department.
Construction on the new station at Third Street and A Avenue will likely break ground in 2019, but City officials don't yet know what the building will look like. The Portland architecture firm Mackenzie is tasked with developing the design, and last week representatives from the company joined police and City staff for the first in a planned series of public meetings aimed at gathering community input to help point Mackenzie's team in the right direction.
"Everything so far has been based on the police's operational needs," said Mackenzie architect Jeff Humphreys. "Now we're turning to the exterior."
The early public involvement reflects the fact that the new building is intended to be part of a "civic center" for the downtown area rather than just a police station. When the City Council voted to move forward with the project last year, the group insisted that the street-facing portion of the lower floor should be set aside for public art and events.
A group of roughly 30 residents, including City Councilors Jackie Manz, Joe Buck and John LaMotte, gathered at City Hall on April 13 to view Mackenzie's preliminary concepts and discuss plans for the site. None of the specific details of the building have been finalized, but City staff and police do have a basic list of needed features for the new building, which Mackenzie used to develop a concept floorplan.
"We're here to talk about visioning and our first steps in our design direction," said Deputy City Manager Jordan Wheeler. "There's no real concepts yet — this meeting is the
opportunity to start giving that direction."
Wheeler began by outlining some of the problems that the new building is intended to resolve. Lake Oswego's police department currently occupies roughly 8,000 square feet on the second floor of City Hall and uses the building's rear and underground parking lots to house its vehicles.
"We're standing, really, in our current police department," Wheeler said, pointing at the ceiling of the ground floor council chambers.
That cramped arrangement is not particularly secure, he said, and creates operational difficulties for everyone involved. It also means the police have to deal with the same mold and moisture intrusion problems that plague all the offices in the substandard City Hall building.
City councilors recently voted to scrap the current building in favor of a replacement that will be built on the current location, with construction likely to start as soon as the police station is finished. The two new buildings will occupy the entire north side of the block facing A Avenue, and the simultaneous development creates an opportunity to coordinate between the two projects.
"We do want these two buildings to work well together," Wheeler said, adding that the audience should be mindful of future City Hall plans when considering police center options.
That coordination is already coming in handy for certain aspects of the police station. For example, Mackenzie architect Caitlin Cranley explained that the building's parking lot will need to be almost entirely underground because of the slope of the site, which makes it easier to secure for police vehicles. It won't have public access or parking, but the removal of the police vehicles from the City Hall parking lot will free up more space for public parking that can serve both buildings.
"We see a real opportunity between these two buildings to have a common plaza," Cranley added.
Cranley also answered questions from the audience about some of the building's features. Exterior glass would not need to be bulletproof, she said, because the police portion of the building could be secured as part of the overall design. The building will also feature separate police and public elevators, allowing for a secure passage to the underground parking garage.
Mackenzie's concept design calls for a 35,000-square-foot, two-story building that would include all police operations — including the LOCOM emergency dispatch center — and a large training room that could double as a public meeting space. In keeping with the City Council's goals for the building, the designs also include ground-floor space for both Booktique and the Arts Council, and it features separate entrances for the police and public sections.
But that's as far as the preliminary designs go. The architectural style, exterior design and even some parts of the internal layout have yet to be determined, and instead of concept art for potential designs, the audience was presented with large display boards featuring images of several dozen existing civic centers and other public buildings with distinct architectural styling and features.
The attendees were each given sheets of green and red stickers and asked to place them on the pictures that really stuck out to them as positive or negative examples of the kinds of design ideas that they'd like to see in the new building. The goal, Cranley said, was to focus on the individual features in the images rather than the buildings as a whole.
"We're not asking you to pick out a building," she said. "That's not what this is about."
Humphreys, Cranley and architects Carl Hampson and Adrienne Clifford asked the audience for feedback on some of the images that had a large number of approval stickers, as well as those with many rejection stickers, and they began compiling a pair of lists of some of the common features that audience members liked or disliked.
Some of the most favored features included a solid-looking structure, an inviting space that doesn't feel too much like a police station, and large windows that could emphasize public art. Rejected ideas included "hard modern" architectural styles, a "glass box" like Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, and exteriors with minimal glass that looked like "the wall that Trump wants to build." One example picture with a large red overhang was vehemently rejected for looking "too much like a Dairy Queen.".
A few of the items were contradictory; several pictures were voted down as being "too open/visible," yet several others were endorsed for appearing "open and inviting." Still, there did appear to be a consensus in favor of a mix of materials including wood and glass, and a generally open-feeling space with an exterior overhang. The audience also largely rejected the idea of a heavily sloped roof, pointing to several examples that they said looked too much like barns, churches or a forestry center.
Based on the feedback from the meeting, Mackenzie's architects said they'll begin to draft concept exterior designs for the building, although there will still be opportunities for public input. The next meeting, which is tentatively planned for April 25 at 6 p.m., will be an "Eco-Charette" that focuses on potential sustainability features. Two more community forums are planned (specific dates have not been determined), focusing on massing options and concept renderings.