Oregon Started Here: Willamette Falls Legacy Project


Oregon Started Here: Willamette Falls Legacy Project

Willamette Falls is going to be an incredible project for the people of Oregon. It features one of the most powerful waterfalls in America, a post-industrial landscape, First Nations’ history and the imagination’s of some of the world’s most respected designers (Mayer/ Reed, Snøhetta and DIALOG). It’s really going to get going, with a public open house at the Portland Art Museum next week (more on that to come). If you haven’t done so already you should jump over to Willamette Falls Legacy project web site to find out more. In the meantime, here is a bit of a preamble.

“For the first time in 150 years, Oregonians have the opportunity to rediscover a cultural and scenic treasure: Willamette Falls. A public vision and master plan are taking shape, with the goal of transforming a 23-acre industrial site nestled along the Falls in historic Oregon City. This former paper mill could someday serve as an economic engine, a waterfront destination, a unique habitat, a window into Oregon’s past – and a bold step into our future.

Whatever develops on the landscape will be shaped by Willamette Falls, roaring in the Willamette River below. The largest waterfall in the Pacific Northwest, it was long an important cultural and gathering place for Native American tribes. The Oregon Trail ended here. And throughout the 1800s, the Falls made history by generating energy for Oregon’s early industries and cities and fueling the nation’s first long-distance electrical power transmission. That industrial legacy ended in 2011, when the Blue Heron Paper Co. closed its doors – the last in a succession of businesses that contributed to Oregon City’s strong working waterfront.

Why Now?

The former paper mill was recently purchased, but the site’s complexity and risks still create a hurdle for transformation. That’s why Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro, the State of Oregon and the new owners are working together to develop a vision and master plan. By rezoning the site and providing certainty for investors, the Willamette Falls Legacy Project will help a new era take shape along the Falls.

There’s a lot at stake. If the property is abandoned, the resulting blight would hurt property values in downtown Oregon City, one of the region’s most important economic hubs. Public safety risks and extra costs would burden taxpayers. Water quality and wildlife would deteriorate in one of the Willamette River’s most ecologically diverse stretches. And Oregon City wouldn’t recover the 175 family-wage jobs that vanished along with the paper mill.

With master planning underway, Oregonians can establish a statewide legacy and reconnect Oregonians and visitors with Willamette Falls. They can define how the area is transformed for economic redevelopment, public access, healthy habitats, and historical and cultural interpretation.”

To learn more about DIALOG’s involvement in the design, contact Alan Boniface.

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