Competition launched for historic US riverside site

New look and purpose for US landmark Willamette Falls
Design work will soon be underway for $30 million scheme to transform a 23-acre industrial site adjacent to Oregon’s Willamette Falls, the largest waterfall in the Pacific Northwest.
‘We are in the process of selecting a world-class design team for the first phase river walk project,’ says regional government Oregon Metro’s natural areas engagement coordinator Ellen Wyoming, ‘and proposals are due in by 2pm Pacific Standard Time on 11 March. Interested parties must register and express their interest here.
The project team, led by owner Falls Legacy LLC, has allocated $11.5 million for the river walk, which is the first step in redeveloping the site ‘and catalysing development’ at the riverside site of a former paper mill.  It is hoped that the historic Oregon City site will one day, according to Oregon Metro, serve as ‘an economic engine, a waterfront destination, a unique habitat, and a window into Oregon’s past’.

The Willamette Falls was an important cultural and gathering place for Native American tribes. The Oregon Trail ended here and throughout the 1800s the falls generated energy for Oregon’s early industries and cities, as well as fuelling the US’s first long-distance electrical power transmission. This industrial legacy ended in 2011, when the Blue Heron Paper Company closed its doors – the last in a succession of businesses that contributed to Oregon City’s working waterfront.

The site’s complexity and risks still create a hurdle for transformation, says Oregon Metro. It, together with Oregon City, Clackamas County, the State of Oregon and the owner joined forces to develop a vision and masterplan for the Willamette Falls Legacy Project in 2013-2014.

This was completed late last year and identifies key areas for public access, open space and development. It re-establishes a Main Street grid ‘and creates connections for people to view the majestic Willamette Falls’.


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