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New center sets standard.

Byline: The Register-Guard

When the Wayne Lyman Morse U.S. Courthouse opened in 2006, it set a new architectural standard for new federal courthouses across the nation. On a smaller scale, the new Armed Forces Reserve Center in Springfield should do the same as the federal and state governments replace aging, inefficient armories and government office buildings in other communities.

Located near Marcola Road, the $39 million, 170,000-square-foot complex will bring together Oregon Army National Guard units from Eugene and Cottage Grove, and Marine Corps and Naval Reserve units from west Eugene. It also will house the local offices of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which now operate in separate Eugene locations.

By bringing this diverse group of tenants into a single building, the U.S. General Services Administration will save taxpayers money through reduced operations and maintenance costs. Granted, the estimated $15.5 million in savings won't make much of a dent in the $700 billion finance industry bailout. But, hey, ya' gotta start somewhere, right?

But the new armory is more than a bargain. It's also cool. As The Register-Guard's Shelby Martin reported in a Monday story, it has exercise facilities, a firing range, work bays and classrooms - even a virtual reality arena where soldiers rehearse combat scenarios. That's not to mention space that will be available to rent for events such as weddings, anniversaries and high-school proms.

Unlike the armories of decades past, the new building is a model of energy efficiency and boasts the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. Instead of traditional lawn and landscape plantings that require watering and maintenance, the new building is surrounded by clover, wildflowers and an assortment of native plantings.

If there is a down side, it is the real-estate ripple effect that the consolidation will cause. The departure of the National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162 Infantry, will leave the Cottage Grove armory vacant, and the Oregon Military Department plans to put it on the market. The Naval Reserve/Marine Corps buildings on 13th Avenue and Chambers Street are owned by the city, which has not yet decided what it will do with the property. Until the regional economy regains an audible pulse, both of those facilities could be empty for some time.

The futures of other sites are thankfully more certain.

Lane County bought the armory on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Eugene in 2003 and has been leasing it to the National Guard. After current occupants move, the armory will become part of the John Serbu Youth Campus as a job training center.

The GSA plans to move another federal agency into current Forest Service offices in the former federal courthouse in downtown Eugene. Meanwhile, a developer has bought the BLM building on Chad Drive and has yet to decide the future of the facility and surrounding property.

Unlike the new federal courthouse, the new reserve center is unlikely to be hailed as a world-class piece of 21st century architecture. But it sets a higher standard of innovation, collaboration and green design for future reserve centers across Oregon and the rest of the nation.

Surely that's worth a few ooh-rahs from taxpayers.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Agencies come together at Springfield center
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 9, 2008
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