SALEM — Local leaders have voted to spend nearly $23 million to fix a downtown Salem government office building and bus mall that cost $34 million to build a little more than a decade ago.
The Courthouse Square has been closed nearly two years because of design flaws and weak concrete. Engineers said parts of the complex could collapse of their own weight.
The Marion County commissioners and the transit district board voted unanimously earlier this week to go ahead with repair work. It could begin by June and be finished by the fall of 2013.
The county and the transit district share ownership of the mall. Leaders of the two entities said that after months of analysis, and initial repair estimates ranging to $50 million, it made more sense to go ahead with the repair proposal than to raze the building and start over.
“What an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons,” County Commissioner Janet Carlson said.
The repairs were proposed by Structural Preservation System Inc. of Baltimore. They are supposed to give Courthouse Square a 50-year life.
The Statesman Journal has reported that besides design flaws, there were problems with the construction process — the project manager reported in 2000 on cracked concrete, but the designer said the cracks were cosmetic and could be patched.
In the meantime, the closed complex was an eyesore in the middle of town.
“The core of downtown is impacted by a block behind a chain-link fence,” Salem Mayor Anna Peterson told the county and transit boards.