WL waterfront planning ramping up
This past summer was, as consultant John Morgan put it, something of a "quiet time" for those involved with the West Linn Waterfront redevelopment planning project.
With a number of staff members, including Morgan, taking time off at various points, it wasn't easy to bring various stakeholders together for large meetings. But during his update to the West Linn City Council at a work session Oct. 2, Morgan said the project still took considerable steps forward over the past several months.
"We did make a lot of progress following through (and) meeting with a lot of groups over the course of the summer and having conversations with them," Morgan said. "We met with many of the neighborhood associations — we have a couple key ones left, including Bolton."
Morgan added that City staff also met with other community groups and has a presentation scheduled at the West Linn Chamber of Commerce. Community Development Director John Williams, meanwhile, met with business groups in Oregon City to talk about how they approached their redevelopment planning on that side of the river, and Williams also had meetings with various property owners on the waterfront.
Formerly known as the "Arch Bridge project" and now rebranded as "West Linn's Waterfront," planning for redevelopment along the Willamette River is one of the City's Council's top goals in 2017. The fresh start comes after the council opted to scrap a 2014 concept plan for the area that was funded by a $220,000 grant from Metro — in large part due to what was perceived to be a lack of sufficient public involvement.
In late 2016, the City identified three "sub areas" of focus for future planning. The sub areas were the "Old City Hall District" near the Arch Bridge, the "Industrial Heritage District" around West Linn Paper Company and the PGE plant, and the "Pond Redevelopment Area" near the former Blue Heron Paper Mill site on the West Linn side of the river.
See also:The City hosted its first open house for the project in early June, and staff members were shocked at the turnout. As Morgan joked, "We bought cookies for 30 people and 120 showed up."
The hope at that open house was to garner feedback on the "guiding principles" — including big picture items like preserving the historic character of the area, generating reinvestment opportunities and providing better access to the river — that had been drafted for the project.
"In looking at (the feedback), there's no big surprise," Morgan said. "(The comments) are an affirmation."
Nearly 300 comments have been submitted so far regarding the project, and Morgan said some big picture concerns have emerged.
"One thing that keeps coming up consistently in all of this is that streets and traffic are the number one issue — they're going to drive everything else," Morgan said. "That is something the community is saying to address first."
He added that staff have worked with a traffic engineer to develop a series of options for dealing with street realignment to accommodate new development, and those options were presented to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). Traffic issues will also be the focus of the next open house meeting scheduled for Oct. 24.
"At the next open house, we will lay out the options and say, 'Here's what we've heard,'" Morgan said. "There are positives and negatives about each option and we'll see what our citizens have to say about those."
As planning and outreach continue, the City is scheduled to spend most of 2018 reviewing draft plans and adopt a master plan in early 2019.
"That's pessimistic in my mind," Morgan said. "Some of these points are coming together so quickly that we may be able to move faster."