The site of the future Salem Public Works building. Construction is set to start in January on the $39 million project. (Courtesy/ City of Salem)

A fence will go up next week at 1457 23rd St. as construction is slated to begin in January on a new $39 million Salem Public Works operations building.

Mark Becktel, public works operations manager, said the existing building that many public works employees currently use is a converted warehouse from the 1950s.

He said most of the building stays a comfortable temperature, but some employees keep space heaters in their offices.

Becktel said the building isn’t the right height above the floodplain, needs a new roof and wouldn’t hold up in the event of an earthquake.

“It just became prohibitively expensive to renovate this building any further,” he said.

That building will eventually be demolished and a 50,000 square-foot, 2-story building will go up in the northeast corner of the property. It will be seismically built to withstand an earthquake.

Portland-based Howard S. Wright is the lead contractor, and the lead architect is Portland-based Hacker Architects.

Becktel said 150 people will have offices in the building, which will house park operations, street maintenance, utilities and the engineering division.

He said there are another 150 people who work in the field that will have lockers in the space.

Three years ago, the city updated its master plan for the Salem Shops Complex.

“That’s really where we dove back into the idea of building a new public works operations building and started to look to see if we could find the funding,” he said.

Becktel said the funding will come from the city’s utility fund, general fund and the city’s portion of state highway funds.

Funding for the project was approved through the city's Capital Improvement Plan.

He said he’s most excited to have the engineering and operations division in one space. Currently the engineering division has an office space in the Salmon Run building near the Pringle Parkade.

“Having each other down the hall is so much better than being in two different buildings,” he said.

He said the building will be designed to be open and accommodating, making it easier for the public to access. He also said it will be functional and modest.

“It’s only as big as it needs to be,” he said.

The project is expected to be completed in July 2023.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] 

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