Sponsored by George Fox University
Home Linda Baker's Blog The year of the river

The year of the river

| Print |  Email
Linda Baker
Thursday, November 01, 2012

BY LINDA BAKER

11.01.12 Blog WillametteIn our October issue, I wrote a story about several Willamette Valley cities and their efforts to retool their economies, post-recession.  A few common themes emerged—namely, a shared focus on downtown revitalization and the creation of new value-added businesses, be it green nanotech in Albany or advanced food processing (artisan cider) in Salem.

That article left out another emerging development strategy. With few exceptions, the Willamette Valley cities are returning to their namesake but oft-ignored river as an urban amenity and eco-friendly development tool.

In Salem, for example, the city has been working to implement a long-standing community plan connecting three urban parks and more than twenty miles of trails via two pedestrian bridges over the Willamette. In 2009, the city completed the first bridge: the Union Street Railroad Bridge, linking West Salem’s Wallace Marine Park with downtown’s Riverfront Park.  

The next step is to build the Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge and multimodal trail.  The conceptual design was completed this summer and the final design phase will be completed in April, 2013. So far, about $5,000,000 in urban renewal funds has been allocated for the project. To boost tourism and encourage more people to live/work/play downtown, "we are returning to the river," says John Wales, Salem's urban development director.

Portland, of course, is building its own bike/pedestrian/light rail bridge over the Willamette. As the Oregonian’s Anna Griffin reported in October, the city is also taking a dramatic new approach to riverfront development, to be codified in the Central City 2035 plan, a 20-year vision in progress for downtown Portland.  The river "is not going to be something to just look at anymore,"  Michelle Rudd, a land-use lawyer with Stoel Rives and vice chair of Portland's Planning and Sustainability Commission, told Griffin.  To engage residents, businesses and tourists with the city’s signature waterway, planners are considering moving riprap to create natural river banks and swimming beaches, and running water taxis to and from OMSI, the Rose Garden and Waterfront Park.
 
Further south, the city of Springfield has completed a "refinement" plan aimed at redeveloping Glenwood, a square-mile-sized district between between Eugene and Springfield. The refinement plan replaces an earlier, 20-year-old plan completed by the city of Eugene--one that downplayed the river and focused on the industrial area next to I-5.  The new plan, by contrast, makes the Willamette the centerpiece of a mixed-use commercial and retail and residential district, with pedestrian-friendly boulevards and family access to the river.

The efforts underway in Portland, Salem and Springfield reflect growing interest in mining the amenity value of Oregon's natural waterways. Famous for its open access approach to the Oregon coast, the state has treated many of its rivers as obstacles to be crossed, dumping grounds for pollutants--or, at best, a natural (cleaned up) waterway disconnected from the life of the city.  Now cities such as Hood River, The Dalles, and Astoria are trying to close the gap between the metropolis and the river that runs through it, via natural restoration, beach access and mixed-use development.

Inevitably, these people-oriented river restoration efforts will come into conflict with longtime industrial uses of the river – and expanding urban beach access alongside working ports or harbors will continue to be an issue in many of Oregon's river cities. 

Despite the challenges, the return to the river fits in with larger downtown revitalization and economic development trends, in which urban amenities such as greenspaces have become critical tools in recruiting and retaining companies and workers. 

Albany developer David Johnson, for one, is banking on the appeal of the river to spur business. He recently completed the Wheelhouse, one of the city's first riverfront mixed-use office buildings, featuring a restaurant patio jutting out into the Willamette.  “There are," says Johnson, "only so many natural waterways.” 

Linda Baker is managing editor of Oregon Business

 

Comments   

 
Guest
0 #1 Eugene, As WellGuest 2012-11-02 17:07:01
Eugene is also working to better capitalize on its Willamette River frontage. Building on the present 630+ acres of park land along both banks of the river, the City and Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) have been working for several years on a plan to redevelop a former EWEB facility into new development, open space, and restored riparian habitat. See http://www.eweb.org/riverfront.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Updated: Disrupting innovation

News
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
070814 thumb disputive-innovationBY LINDA BAKER  | OB EDITOR

The New Yorker recently published a sharply worded critique of “disruptive innovation,” one of the most widely cited theories in the business world today. The article raises questions about the descriptive value of disruption and innovation  — whether the terms are mere buzzwords or actually explain today's extraordinarily complex and fast changing business environment. 

Update: We caught up with Portland's Thomas Thurston, who shared his data driven take on the disruption controversy.


Read more...

Blips and trends in the housing market

News
Thursday, June 26, 2014
062614 thumb realestateBY ERIC FRUTS | OB BLOGGER

Last year, the housing market in Oregon—and the U.S. as a whole—was blasting off. The Case-Shiller index of home prices ended the year 13% higher than at the beginning of the year. But, was last year a blip, or a trend?


Read more...

Why I became an Oregon angel investor

Guest Blog
Monday, July 14, 2014
AngelInvestBY TERRY "STARBUCKER" ST. MARIE

I really didn’t know that much about angel investing, but I did know a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit.


Read more...

Q&A: David Lively of Organically Grown Co.

News
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
OGCLogoBY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER

Demand for organic food continues to soar: Last year, sales of organic food rose to $32.3 billion — up 10% from 2012. In Oregon, organic produce wholesaler Organically Grown Co. has been championing organic growing methods for four decades.


Read more...

OB Video: Dress for Success

News
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
DFSOBY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR

Dress for Success Oregon promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.


Read more...

The global challenge

News
Friday, June 27, 2014
062714 thumb globalmarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB BLOGGER

Over the last several months we have seen a wave of cross-border acquisitions, primarily U.S.-based companies looking to purchase non-U.S.-based companies. There are a few reasons for this, but the main culprit is the U.S. corporate tax system. The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.


Read more...

13 West Coast seafood species now 'sustainable'

News
Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Fishing OrBiz Fishing 0357 ADOBErgbCiting the transition to catch shares management as a key to rebuilding stocks and reducing bycatch, 13 species caught by the West Coast trawl fishery today earned designation from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as sustainable.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS