Can Access to Willamette Falls Spur Urban Renewal?

State and local officials in Oregon have launched a planning process to develop a public access esplanade to Willamette Falls in Oregon City. City planners could center urban renewal plans around what is expected to be a popular tourist destination.
April 8, 2014, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Steve Mayes reports on a recent decision to seek $4 million in planning and design funding for the “Willamette Falls Legacy Project.” The project involves redeveloping a 23-acre industrial site along the Willamette River as a cultural and scenic destination overlooking Willamette Falls in Oregon City.

The details of the project’s current status: “A consortium of state and local officials working on the project agreed Monday to identify how they might fund the $4 million design phase of an esplanade that would give the public a vantage point at the falls. Representatives from Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro, state parks and the governor's office will report back in 30 days with how much money each might contribute to the project,” writes Mayes. Construction for the final project, “ may cost $30 million, according to a preliminary estimate.”

Part of the expense of the project comes from the difficult ownership state of the the 23-acre site required for the project—the former Blue Heron paper mill. “Currently, a bankruptcy court trustee controls the property,” writes Mayes. Efforts to sell the land have failed as three buyers made offers then quickly backed out.”

Tony Konkol, Oregon City's community development director, has also said that the city might consider tailoring its “existing urban renewal district to encompass the property or create a new district to help fund the work.” 

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Published on Monday, April 7, 2014 in The Oregonian
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