If you have taken the Marquam Bridge through Portland at any point in your lifetime you’ve no doubt seen a massive, unsightly blue warehouse right along the waterfront to the South. The site has been home to the Zidell Corp’s ship building business since the early 1900’s; making a name for itself in the 40’s decommissioning WWII ships. The 33-acre site is currently the largest undeveloped piece of property in city limits and, since the early 2000’s, has been in the very lengthy development process with the City and the owning family.

Since 2011 and until recently the property had undergone a $20M site cleanup process, mandated by the comprehensive plan to clean up and re-fortify the shoreline. Now that it’s complete the development conversation has resumed, and at a rapid pace. The Company has recently released an early concept plan detailing its vision for the area which, in conjunction with early partnerships, forecast a massive vision. This new plan lays out the street grid, park and open space areas, as well as specified residential and commercial zoning areas.

One of the central aspects of the stakeholder’s ambition for this area, effectively known as the North Reach of the South Waterfront Greenway, is an extension into the city’s urban trail system known as the Willamette Greenway trail. This important link to the system would allow for both bikers and walkers to connect into Selwood and John’s Landing to the South. This, in turn, connects into a larger trail system that is nearly 140 miles, winding its way through city parks all across Portland.

One of the encouraging aspects of this ambitious development is that all of the major players are very insistent on creating a community that incorporates the rich maritime culture deeply ingrained in the area’s history. There is also a desire to see a portion of the open space used as exhibit space for organizations like OMSI, Oregon Maritime Museum, and The Black Pioneers.

Roger Gertenrich, former mayor of Salem and member of the Advisory Committee for the project echoed these sentiments when he said, “What we have going here is a love story. Everybody loves their history, everyone loves the Willamette River, and everyone has a story to tell.”

This will be a project you’ll want to keep your eyes on. While it’s likely that we’re still years away from seeing the first structures touch the sky, it’s historically rare that a group of community advocates and developers put together such an ambitious project that seeks to so grandly integrate into a city whose roots are both diverse and storied. If this project only reaches a fraction of what it’s attempting, we should all be in for quite a treat.

The Committee held an open house on February 7th, if you’d like more information on how it went or would like to stay updated on the project in general, visit the City of Portland’s website dedicated to the project – South Waterfront Greenway – North Reach