Re-imagining Portland’s eastside waterfront

The Water Avenue Research Project was started by Bora Architects

A rendering of an idea for the eastbank riverfront in downtown Portland by Bora Architects, as seen on their website October 12, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s eastside waterfront area is undeveloped at the moment. But Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler tweeted a research design project for the area that he deemed “stellar.”

The area just north of the Hawthorne Bridge near Water Avenue is currently vacant land owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation. There are parking lots underneath the I-5 overpass near public access to the Willamette River.

“Not a place you’d want to go spend time, a place that feel kind of abandoned,” said Michael Tingley with Bora Architects. He’s the principal in charge of the Water Avenue Yards Research Project.

The Water Avenue Yards Research Project

“At the same time it’s a place a lot of people pass through because it’s right on the Eastside Esplanade,” Tingley said.

Employees with Bora Architects began re-imagining the spot.

“This is a site we all drive by or bike by or walk along and wonder, ‘Why is it sitting there vacant?'” he told KOIN 6 News. “We took a team in our office and spent a couple years without a client, without some sort of program set up. Just imagine what might be a good transformation of this sit, good for serving the city.”

A rendering of an idea for the eastbank riverfront in downtown Portland by Bora Architects, as seen on their website October 12, 2016
A rendering of an idea for the eastbank riverfront in downtown Portland by Bora Architects, as seen on their website October 12, 2016

In their vision, the eastside Water Avenue Yards would be a place for recreation, community, creation and industry to showcase Portland’s unique culture.

“So it becomes a place where you can see where food stuffs that you might be buying are being made or products that you might be interested in are being manufactured,” he said, “and you could actually open it up for weekends for maker fairs, or you could open it up for market days.”

The Portland Development Commission is negotiating with ODOT to purchase 3 parcels of land in the area. The long term plan is to redevelop those parcels with an employment and industrial focus, according to the PDC.

Bora Architects shared their vision with Wheeler

“We actually met with him (Tuesday),” Tingley said. “He’s someone who seems really interested as he’s getting to step into the role as mayor about what issues there are in the city, what possibilities exist and I think he just has a very curious mind.”

Right now there is no timeline for redeveloping the area, but it is being talked about.

Tingley wants to broaden the discussion of what’s possible.

“I think the most important thing is to imagine a way that as this site gets transformed and developed you really capitalize on what it’s opportunity is to still host public events and still maintain that sense as a public amenity.”