Millions requested to design access to Willamette Falls

The Blue Heron Paper Mill closed in 2011 after going bankrupt, April 8, 2014. (KOIN)
The Blue Heron Paper Mill closed in 2011 after going bankrupt, April 8, 2014. (KOIN)

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — A new offer is on the table to redevelop the bankrupt Blue Heron Paper Mill in Oregon City as well as a request for millions of dollars to design public access to the Willamette Falls that is next to it.

The closing of the Blue Heron Paper Mill in 2011 hit the economy of Oregon City hard, but it also created an opportunity for redevelopment and better public access to Willamette Falls, the second largest waterfall by volume in the Pacific Northwest.

However, the search for a developer has not been easy.

Three prospective buyers for the 23-acre property have pulled out, but Megarock, LLC has now offered $2.2 million for the former paper mill, according to City Manager David Frasher.

Frasher said he is not getting his hopes up about this new offer.

“I don’t like to get too hopeful about any one of these because literally we’ve seen several offers come forward and then dissipate and come back and go away,” said Frasher.

However, Megarock, LLC, developers from Tacoma, do have some experience with former industrial sites, including the old Olympia Brewery in Tumwater.

Frasher said Oregon City is working on a master plan for the Blue Heron property that could include everything from retail stores to condos and hotels with a key component being the opening of vistas of Willamette Falls to the public.

In order for that master plan to occur, a consortium wants $4 million just to design the new property.

“And so that’s our estimate for what it’s going to cost to design and to actually have construction documents for the river walk,” said Frasher.

Although some, including Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith, questioned that cost, explaining the county is owed more than half a million in back taxes for the site.

Some business owners said the fate of the former paper mill is critical for the future of downtown Oregon City, which is trying to forge a renaissance with a major property sitting vacant.

“It has to have some business to generate activity downtown to bring the people in here, to get them excited,” said Maurice Shahtut, a downtown Oregon City business owner.

The community director in Oregon City hopes to have a deal in place by May 1 if the latest offer comes through.

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