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Opening the Willamette River Falls to the Public
The Legacy Project has unveiled its riverwalk plan


Willamette River Falls in Oregon City, Oregon, is second only to Niagara Falls in water volume in the U.S. The river's industrial past has kept the falls from public view and access. Oregon City is 14 miles upriver of Portland.
Photo: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

The Willamette Falls Legacy Project seeks to build a public riverwalk on former Blue Heron Paper Co. land in Oregon City, Oregon. The plant closed in 2011. The project also looks to redevelop the site's other 22 acres.

Now, after six years of planning, the Legacy Project has unveiled its riverwalk plan. Heading the design team is Sn?hetta ( ), a multidisciplinary firm based in Oslo and New York City, with studios in San Francisco, Innsbruck, Austria, Singapore and Stockholm. The firm designed the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion, the Oslo Opera House and the expansion of SFMoMA.

Developer George Heidgerken purchased most of the Blue Heron site in a 2014 bankruptcy. Portland General Electric owns the land closest to the falls. The project partners were granted an easement from Heidgerken for a 150-foot-wide path along the river, and also signed an agreement with PGE to allow access to the dam.

Sn?hetta is working in conjunction with Portland landscape architects Mayer/Reed and Vancouver's Dialog on the river path, viewing spots and riverbank habitat restoration.

The Willamette Falls Riverwalk and the surrounding development will largely rely on private funding. A realistic completion date is 10 to 15 years out.

Some of the factory buildings along the river may be stripped to their steel frames and left standing as a kind of homage to the city's and river's industrial past, which included lumber, flour and paper mills.

The first phase of Sn?hetta's design, a riverside viewing area near the falls, is expected to break ground next year and completed in 2022.

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June 19, 2019, 11:12 pm PDT

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