Multnomah County Library breaks ground on new, destination library in East County

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Large location will offer accessibility and dynamic amenities for the community

PORTLAND, Ore.––July 11, 2023

Multnomah County Library is breaking ground on an entirely new library in East County, providing a dynamic landmark for the community with approximately 95,000 square feet of learning, play and connection. This new library will be similar in size to Central Library in downtown Portland with the ease of accessibility for all East County residents. 

A new location for a new destination library

In advance of the groundbreaking, on June 30, 2023, Multnomah County Library and TriMet finalized the library’s purchase of the former Gresham City Hall Park and Ride (1297 NW Eastman Pkwy, Gresham) from TriMet for use in building the East County Library. 

The agreement between Multnomah County Library and TriMet represents the conclusion of years of searching for an ideal site that will fit this large, planned library and is easily accessible for East County community members. As part of the agreement, TriMet will retain a portion of the site for future transit-oriented development. Both parties will work together with the City of Gresham to establish the vision for the civic space and the surrounding area. 

Groundbreaking ceremony

What: East County Library groundbreaking ceremony as part of Multnomah County Library Capital Building Projects, brief remarks and photo opportunity

When: Wednesday, July 12, 2023, 2:30-3:30 pm

Where: Site of the future East County Library (1297 NW Eastman Pkwy, Gresham, OR)

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson will join East County Library’s groundbreaking celebration along with District 4 Commissioner Lori Stegmann; Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke; director of the Department of County Assets and Chief Information Officer Tracey Massey; City of Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall; TriMet General Manager Sam Desue, Jr.; SandeBea Allman, Chief Community Engagement & Development Officer at NARA NW; Community Library Champions Terry Wattley, Community Engagement Manager at Black Economic Collective, and Sarai Rodriguez, Youth & Family Program Manager at El Programa Hispano Católico.

Designing with the community

The ceremonial groundbreaking is a time to highlight how the new library will serve as a transformative space for community members. Currently, 40 percent of the county’s population live east of I-205, and East County is one of the most diverse areas of the region. That's why insights from community members have guided the vision and purpose for the new library, led by the community engagement ethos. These values ensure that each project’s community engagement is just, equitable and accessible, in order to recognize current community dynamics, reckon with the past, hold a high level of accountability to the community and imagine a different future for public libraries in Multnomah County.

Through a paid program called the Community Library Champions, members of East County-based community organizations including El Programa Hispano Católico and Black Economic Collective worked with residents in East County and beyond to gather their dreams for this new library.

New features for a new destination

Based on community input through focus groups, public meetings, surveys, workshops and more, new features will include:

  • A large auditorium with flexible seating for cultural celebrations, lectures, performances and family programs–a true community asset that doesn’t currently exist in East County 
  • A makerspace with room for classes to explore everything from robotics to construction to 3D printing
  • An audio visual studio with technology that provides users a professional studio experience at the library
  • A sizable teen space for enjoying technology, connection and creativity 
  • Diverse collections that represent the cultural and language diversity of the neighborhood
  • Dedicated, secure family space with indoor and outdoor children’s play and learning areas
  • Outdoor space for community members to relax and connect including an outdoor amphitheater and plaza for music, speakers and more events
  • New art that represents the community

The project will transform an underutilized piece of land into an asset for the community. The
library will achieve LEED Gold certification and will utilize sustainable strategies on the site and
in the building, including native plants, energy efficient mechanical systems, prioritized use of recycled and local materials and more.

“We’re dreaming big, and the new East County Library is going to be something unique and meaningful,” said Vailey Oehlke, Director of Libraries. “From an incredible auditorium for cultural celebrations to spaces for making, learning, doing and playing, this library will be beautiful, accessible and representative of the people of East County. A public library should reflect our highest ideals and aspirations and we are making that a reality.”

“As a resident of this part of the County, I know how exciting this revitalization is and am glad our library system is such a big part of it,” said Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “Along with TriMet and the City of Gresham, we’re creating engaging cultural spaces that help our communities capitalize on their dreams and visions. We celebrate this next step with great hope for the future.”

“Working alongside Multnomah County and the City of Gresham, we’re extremely proud to help breathe new life into an underused TriMet property and build a more vibrant community where people can live, relax and play,” said TriMet General Manager Sam Desue Jr. “Often, transit is built to take people to existing destinations, but why not work to build those destinations where transit already exists? Having a 95,000-square-foot library within just steps of a MAX station means people will be able to access it easily.”

"This groundbreaking moment for Gresham is an extraordinary opportunity that will bring immense benefits to our community," said Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall. "Our new library will be a catalyst for education, innovation, and cultural enrichment, promoting connectivity and fostering a sense of belonging. I’m immensely grateful for the collaboration and vision of Multnomah County, TriMet and all the stakeholders, as well as the voters that made this possible. The East County Library will be a source of pride and a place of inspiration for generations to come."

Leading the design for this incredible project is the prime architect of record, Holst Architecture, a local, award-winning, women-owned firm which has extensive experience in meaningful, community-guided projects. Contributing to the project through the design development phase was Adjaye Associates, an international architecture firm known for their work on recent projects including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. 

East County Library will begin the construction process for this approximately $147 million project in August of 2023. East County Library is scheduled to be complete in fall 2025. 

View and download the renderings via Dropbox.