Benton County officials are considering the purchase of a second building in the Sunset Research Park in southwest Corvallis to create a “county seat” that would eventually bring together a wide array of public services in a single location.
The county has signed a non-binding letter of intent to purchase the building at 4500 SW Research Way for $7.1 million from the Oregon State University Foundation. Remodeling the space to suit the county’s needs would cost an additional $1.5 million to $2 million.
The Board of Commissioners is tentatively scheduled to vote on the proposed acquisition at its Jan. 7 meeting. If approved, the deal could close by Valentine’s Day.
Built in 1995, the building is set on 6.5 acres and has 275 parking spaces. It was recently appraised at just under $7.2 million, according to Benton County Administrator Joe Kerby, and the county assessor’s website lists the property’s real market value as nearly $9.8 million.
“We think it’s certainly a fair price for the opportunities the building presents to the county,” Kerby said. “Our intent is to try and house as many of our customer-facing departments there as possible.”
The two-story, 54,000-square-foot office building at 4500 SW Research Way is a short walk from the Sunset Building, which houses the Health, Juvenile, Assessment, Human Resources and Financial Services departments. The county also leases space in the building to Dial-A-Bus and the Oregon State University Extension Service.
Adding the second building would alleviate crowding in some county facilities while bringing more public services into the same general vicinity, Kerby said.
“We’re actually bursting at the seams,” he said. “We have no extra capacity, and we have a labyrinth … of facilities” that can be difficult for the public to navigate.
About 60% of the 4500 SW Research Way building is currently occupied by Fiserv, a company that provides transaction processing and other technology solutions to the financial services industry. The company has a lease that runs through September 2021, with two three-year renewal options.
Plans call for the county to move into the building in phases, starting with the 21,500 square feet that is currently unoccupied. During Phase 1, scheduled for 2021, the Records and Elections offices would move over from the basement of Benton County Courthouse, and the county commissioners, county administrator and county counsel would move over from the county boardrooms at 205 NW Fifth St.
The Assessment and Financial Services departments would relocate from the Sunset Building, making room for the Developmental Diversity Program, which is currently leasing office space at a cost of $90,000 a year.
Phase 2 would begin when Fiserv’s lease is terminated, which would happen in 2027 if the company exercises both of its renewal options or sooner if it doesn’t. At that point, the Information Technology and Human Resources departments would move in, along with either the Juvenile Department or Community Development Department. Some of those moves would free up room in the Sunset Building, allowing Dial-A-Bus to lease additional space from the county. The OSU Extension Service is also in need of more room, although plans call for it eventually to move into new quarters at the county fairgrounds.
Phase 3 could involve a number of moves, including relocating the Juvenile or Community Development Department (whichever didn’t move during the previous phase), bringing in new tenants and selling surplus county property vacated during earlier phases, such as the building at 205 NW Fifth.
If the transaction goes through, it would cap a significant series of facilities moves over the past decade.
The county bought the 32,000-square-foot Sunset Building in 2010 for $3.3 million as a way of consolidating multiple government offices from leased spaces scattered across Corvallis into a single location owned by the county.
In 2017, the county launched a multiphase project that began with a $112,000 remodel of the Sunset Building, continued with a $2 million renovation and expansion of the Avery Building at 360 SW Avery Drive and culminated this year with the completion of an $8.3 million makeover of the Public Services Building at 530 NW 27th St. to accommodate the county’s greatly expanded main health clinic.
While purchasing the building at 4500 SW Research Way would require the county to either borrow money or issue bonds, Kerby noted that there are also some financial positives to the deal. For one thing, the county would no longer have to lease space for the Developmental Diversity Program, which currently costs $90,000 a year. It would also save an estimated $100,000 a year in lost time and travel expenses racked up by county employees trekking back and forth across town for meetings.
In addition, as long as Fiserv remains a tenant, the county would collect the $550,000 a year the company is paying to lease space in the building. If it stays through the potential end of its lease in 2027, that would amount to more than $4 million.
There would also be income from the sale of surplus property.
“I think what’s great about this building is it has current lease revenue coming in to offset some of the purchase costs,” Kerby said. “And it’s certainly a long-term acquisition that will serve the county for many years and serve county residents for sure.”