City News

PHOTOS: Salem unveils new $39 million public works building

Salem employees will see brighter, safer workspaces following a $39 million project moving the Public Works Department from a “dark bunker” into a modern 50,000 square foot building.

The new building consolidated office space for public works operations, engineering, parks and recreation and administrative staff who design and maintain city infrastructure, manage utilities and answer calls from the public. The building includes a public-facing customer service and reception area.

The city held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and over 100 city employees, their families and project partners were in attendance. The new building is at 1457 23rd St. S.E., near the old offices and part of the city shops complex.

The project started in the winter of 2022, and was completed in September. It aimed to bring staff out of a building that former Public Works Director Peter Fernandez described as a cold and dank vintage space with a leaky roof.

The new building was finished under budget, largely using the utility fund, which is funded by Salemites’ water and sewer bills and can’t be used for general city operations. Unlike the city’s general fund, the utility fund is in good fiscal health due to “prudent financial management including the refinancing of outstanding debt, payoff of debt, and stable rate increases,” according to an August report from Chief Financial Officer Josh Eggleston.

Portland-Based Hacker Architects designed the building, and the lead contractor was Portland-based Howard S. Wright Construction. Sixty-five percent of the contracted work went to local contractors in Marion, Polk, Linn and Benton Counties, according to the city.

The building is meant to withstand a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, which could reach a magnitude of 8 or 9, and its design incorporates the first community microgrid in the state, which will be able to power the building and nearby residences in the event of a widespread outage. 

Check out photos of the new building below:


Public works employees gather to hear opening remarks at the dedication ceremony for the department’s new building on Oct. 3, 2023 (Abbey McDonald/ Salem Reporter)
City leaders and project partners cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony for the new public works building on Oct 3, 2023 (Abbey McDonald/ Salem Reporter)
Jon Bolliger poses outside of the newly minted Jon Bolliger Conference Room in the new public works building on Oct. 3, 2023. Bolliger worked with the department for over 40 years, starting in 1966, and saw several office moves, including from the old city hall to West Salem. Rooms were named after longtime employees through a nomination process (Abbey McDonald/ Salem Reporter)
The previous office space for Public Works Department employees, which was built in the 1950s (Abbey McDonald/ Salem Reporter)
The new public works building uses Oregon-sourced timber and reclaimed wood (Abbey McDonald/ Salem Reporter)
The gender neutral locker rooms in the new public works building have private changing rooms featuring work boots and overalls (Abbey McDonald/ Salem Reporter)
The new building includes a communal kitchen space and a common area (Abbey McDonald/ Salem Reporter)
Outside the new public works building which opened Oct. 3, 2023 (Abbey McDonald/ Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.