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Planning and Sustainability

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River Planners and Advocates Come Together Around the Central Reach

More than 70 people participated in a two-day open workshop focused on improving the Willamette riverfront area in the Central City on Dec. 4 and 5. The results of the facilitated discussions and open houses will help staff develop a Central Reach Urban Design Concept, which will be incorporated into the Central City 2035 planning effort and the update to the Willamette Greenway Plan.

If you weren’t able to attend the workshop and would like to learn more or provide comments, the presentation, maps and workshop questionnaires are available on the Workshop Summary Page. Community comments are welcome through December 20.

Based on feedback from each session, it’s clear that Portlanders want to see more activities, uses and people engaged in the riverfront area. An overarching theme is to increase human access to the water for recreation, transportation and enjoyment. People view Tom McCall Waterfront Park as a major place for transformation. Think small commercial uses, cultural and historical attractions, and recreation, including an urban beach for swimming. On the east side, the OMSI area has great potential to be an emerging waterfront district with the new light rail station and pedestrian/bike bridge over the river. Expanding this area with new cafes, cultural and historical attractions like a maritime museum, a boat school and increased boat access could make this a popular destination for the region.

workshop photoParticipants also talked about making the Downtown riverfront area more recognizable as the city’s primary gathering place.  As such the area could bring people together through a variety of land- and water-based activities that reflect the history, culture and natural environment. Commercial boating would become more prolific with cruise, excursion and river transit opportunities converging downtown. Clusters of uses such as retail, recreation, entertainment and other businesses could form destination points that add vibrancy to the waterfront. Key focus areas include the Rose Quarter/Convention Center, OMSI and the light rail station under construction, and Waterfront Park.

Maintaining and improving habitat areas for fish, birds and other wildlife by enhancing river banks with native vegetation and maintaining in-water shallow habitat is a priority, especially in key areas in the Central Reach. The Hawthorne Bowl riverfront area could be reconfigured to support both swimming and fish migration habitat because these activities occur at different times of the year. Also, creating habitat wildlife corridors throughout the Central City will allow birds and other species to safely move through downtown and benefit humans. Finally, Waterfront Park could be a place where part of the seawall is replaced with a steps lined with native vegetation down to the river for easy access to swim, paddle or simply splash in the water.

The Willamette River’s Central Reach is poised to become much more of a playground for all Portlanders and visitors to the Central City. Find out more by visiting the project website or contact Debbie Bischoff for more information.

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