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Photo of Oregon City Mayor Doug NeeleyMayor Doug Neeley

From City Matters -

Summer 2014 Oregon City Trail News

I want to give you an update on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project at the former Blue Heron Mill site. There have been several offers on the property. Three of the firms that have made offers have pulled out, and the current firm, Megarock, out of Tacoma, had until May 7th to close on its offer. By the time you read this, that date will have passed. If that closure did not occur or if a higher offer has not been made, the most likely next step would be to put the property up for auction. If the bids were too low, then the next likely step would be to have the property revert to Clackamas County in lieu of back taxes. (Editor's note: The offer from Megarock was accepted.)

The reason for this slow and uncertain process is that the site is challenging. There are structures built on structures and the cost of making this site developable is unknown. However, there is a Master Plan being developed. The proposed focus is to proceed first with public access to the falls, an access that has not been available for more than 100 years. The design for that access along the river front is estimated at 4 to 5 million dollars and the actual construction about 30 million dollars more. The logic is that if we provide access to these falls, with the second highest flow in North America after Niagara Falls, many thousands of visitors will come. Reversing the premise given in the movie “Field of Dreams” (if you build it, they will come), if they come, then development will occur. Even if the actual development at the site is slow in coming, I believe that there is tremendous development and redevelopment potential along Main Street and eventually up 7th Street corridor with the influx of visitors to Willamette Falls. If the formal partners agree to the prioritization of public access (note the orange line in the concept map), we probably can come up with the funds for the design. Once we have the design, we will seek the additional funding to move forward with the public access to the falls. In addition to the bankruptcy trustee, the formal partners who have already made financial commitments to the project are the State of Oregon, and the Clackamas County, Oregon City and Metro Regional Governments.