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I think Oregonians have wanted something special to happen at this location for a very long time but because of it's somewhat isolated location has laid dormant. The suggestions I've seen from the PDC pages ( Maritime museum, McMenamins, Education, etc..) seem like good ideas but if I didn't see a waterfront trail continuation and Tanner creek daylight finale I would be very disheartened.

Personally I keep visioning the Mills to be similar to the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco. Large indoor space with ample natural lighting. A sort of full time farmers public market, keeping in tune with the Mills history but with space for other businesses.

With all the residential development in the area, it can be a great business opportunity that gives back to the community.


this is a unique place on the river where there could be retail at the water's edge...and its location at the "end" of the parks of the river district gives it a remarkable responsibility for terminating that axis with a real PLACE in the best sense of that word


I would love to see this project be powerful and public. Images of the Ferry Building and all the energy that is fosters are fantastic. That said I'm concerned that the context for this project is very very challenging:

The site is remote and barely connected to the City in any aspect. A pedestrian connection across the rail tracks to the North Pearl seems essential yet this appears to be currently unfunded and not a City priority.

The site is not large, below grade parking is costly and difficult with the water table and the FAR and height are limited making above grade parking unlikely (and undesireable...there is also no current transit access...so how can a large public attractor succeed with limited parking. There was some discussion about parking below the new Fields Park or another solution might be the street car although all these are costly and require lots of collaboration between public and private and different bureaus of the city to pull this off.


I agree with much I see stated in the original post and the subsequent comments, however, the worst possible thing that could happen in this development is for it to be handed over to a developer under the guise of historic preservation while it ends up being a residential or office development.
I've attended several of the earlier discussions at the PDC planning meetings that have led to this point and these are the thngs I have taken away from those events:
a. the city originally bought the property with the intent of making it a park, probably an open park that involved demolition of the buildings.
b. the buildings are obviously very old and it will be very expensive to bring up to today's code and standards for almost any use.
c. expensive upgrades usually means the investor/developer will want to maximize profit. That often means office space or residentials space.
d. the city heard from citizens that they would like to see at least some of the buildings preserved, and they listened.
e. that particular property is viewed as one more link in the waterfront parks that begin much further south and will eventually extend all the way up to the Riverscape development (maybe beyond?)
f. someone commented above that the site is remote and "barely connected to the city" ..this is certainly not true. There are many developments now literally surrounding it and it's an easy walk from the streetcar stop at NW 10th and Marshall.

I absolutely agree with the statement made several times above that a connection over the rails via bridge is a crucial element to ensuring public access to the site. I've rasied this point at least twice in public comment sessions at the PDC and neighborhood meetings. I've pointed out that without a bridge it's unlikel that the site will get much pedestrian traffic due to the railroad and frequent and looong freight trains. Many people won't want to wander over and then have no way to get back until the train passes. Additionally a bridge would literally entice people to wander across, if nothing else just to see what's over there.

To me the priority for the site should be maximizing public access and benefit. If the site is turned over to developers under the pretense that it's the only way to fund its development then it will become another Albers Mill. That building was preserved, and in my opinion, is a handsome building... but how often has anyone simply visited it to enjoy it? The only time I've ever been in it is on business.

A public market, a maritime museum or a retail/restaurant complex would all be wonderful projects for that site... the key question is this - who will fund its development for those purposes?



I like the public ideas like a farmer's market, museum and restaurants or a combination. Public attractors like the Mill Museum are clearly redefining Minneapolis' waterfront into a success.

Portland should transform the mill into a Chelsea Market.




Absolutely, let's keep a valuable portion of the Mills and encourage parks and development around it. I'd concur with Chris that we should see a continuation of the waterfront trail and a Tanner Creek daylight. These are essentials. A foot bridge also seems to be an imperative. The speed of traffic on Naito can be problematic, and, as Pat points out, so can the trains.

I'd vote for park area, restaurants, and retail at the Mills, in that order. A maritime museum, not an ideal cultural draw for this location, would seem better placed in elsewhere on the river. The Pearl has morphed into a great neighborhood, albeit one that can, at times, feel like an excessively urban, high-rise wind tunnel, and even though the Jamison and Tanner Springs parks are tremendous (if tiny) additions, they are also additions that, as destinations, deliver Portlanders to landlocked landscapes of more high-rises and classically Pearl retail and restaurants (essentially, nowhere remarkably different). By incorporating genuine park space into a footbridge-accessible Mills site, it means that the Jamison-Tanner Pearl walk has a natural, and far more expansive destination. In making the Mills merely mallspace or a cineplex with a perfunctory patio, the city would miss out on giving Pearlies something sorely missing right now: an enticing public space that, transcending the self-referential, points away from itself and into the natural, living landmark of the Willamette. The Pearl, at times claustrophobia-inducing, would become more expansive and more connected with the city, in so much that one essence of the city is our natural surroundings. Furthermore, the Mills park would be the type that would lure people from other parts of the city in a way that the Jamison and Tanner Springs parks simply will not (okay, if you're a water-loving three year old addicted to Jamison's wading pool, maybe it's a different story).

On a side note, where are the riverfront restaurants in this town? With such a long riverfront, this is an abominable circumstance. A few in the Mills location would be a perfect fit. But please, let's stop short of plugging another McMenamins into a reclaimed building in Portland. We can do more. Oh, and now that I'm on the subject of scenic restaurants, where are the Pearl's rooftop restaurants? These would be impossibly scenic, and they could certainly incorporate outdoor seating. I can't imagine the rain is a problem with that -- simply throw a covered arbor up there, a la Meriwether's back patio.

Lastly, the Mills, as has been pointed out, are not in spectacular shape. I'd hope that those supporting it's complete restoration and preservation would recognize the value of, instead, keeping some symbolic kernel of it while making way for some new development.


I like the public market idea, something to draw people to the site. With perhaps mixed use of retail and office for the rest. And perhaps a community center. Zimmerman is fine but needs a better facility to be truly successful.

Also, with PDX continuing to study the idea of having a public market, here is an old building that could fit the bill. It may not be right downtown, but would certainly add to the North Pearl and would draw prople to it. And don't forget there is a parking structure at the base of the Broadway Bridge, just a short walk away.


Portland riverfront restaurants (ie. Riverplace) seem to do well in the Spring/Summer due to the obvious weather reasons. A rooftop restaurant with views of Fremont bridge, Broadway bridge and Forest park sounds fantastic.

The only other restaurant I know of in the area is Rivers, in the Johns Landing area.


Oh, one HUGE design consideration is the Mounted Patrol Unit (MPU). I love seeing horses in downtown Portland as I'm sure most kids and parents do. However, it is not a petting zoo and by its nature tries to keep a buffer from the public.


As a side note... Portland Parks is scheduling meetings/comments on the Fields, which will be across from the Mills.


Brian Libby

Several months ago I met with BOORA Architects and looked at their master planning. At that time, their proposal was for it to be more like an athletic field, a big open space where people could play Frisbee or whatever. They also were placing a priority on trying to maintain a view corridor to the Fremont Bridge.


"a big open space where people can play frisbee" for God's sake let's design something meaningful for this space, this is the country of Olmstead. Here is the progression for a little perspetive: The Tuilleries gardens, Central Park, an empty lawn to play frisbee! Now I am not suggesting we create a landscape architecture masterpiece (you cannot order those things) but can we aim a little higher?

Brian Libby

I probably just didn't ariculate the idea well enough. Obviously a plain old lawn wuld suck. But in principle, a place for an urban population to play could be very popular and, with the right design, a place of great character and diversity.

Thurman Chandler

Another vote for a market. Please, please someone in Portland make a vibrant late-night area that has critical mass!!


Hey, don't diss physical sports and frisbee or ball-throwing. There are no places in NW or the Pearl where you can do that... so I'd imagine it will become a HUGELY attractive place for people to come, as it will serve around 30,000 people.

I would love it if its simply an open field with trees around the border, but allowing a view to the Fremont Bridge. Something decidely un-planned and simple, to contrast with the very-designed Pearl district.


Smuphin, I tend to agree with you. Central Park has its Great Lawn. That seems to have been a pretty good idea for the last 100 yrs or so.

Of course, other good ideas are welcome.

The Freemon Bridge lit by the setting sun in the west is quite a worthy site to take advantage of.


Central Park also has the Bethesda fountain and the Mall, also parisian style ponds where kids float little boats etc. I agree there should be space allocated for activities (not enough open spaces in the Pacific Northwest, granted.)
And the view of the Fremont Bridge is a classic urban view that should be retained.


Pardon the innocent question, but what other processes besides RFQ are available? Are other processes used often?


Personally, I think Portland should have a riverfront aquarium. Centenniel Mills seems a good site.

The Seattle Aquarium is a good model. In 1977, the City of Seattle opened a publicly-owned aquarium in a converted waterfront warehouse at Pier 59. As far as I know, it's run by the Department of Parks & Recreation and requires no operating support from the City of Seattle. It's funded by admissions, membership, contributions, fundraising, and grants.

This could be a good way to preserve at least one or two of the existing buildings. A "starter" aquarium (one that doesn't involve, for example, 100,000 gallon salt-water tanks) could be done for a very low budget and be self-supporting from the time it opens.


Aquarium is an interesting idea. Perhaps with a fish hatchery as well? Full-time (ie. non migrating) salt-water fish may be an odd fit though, being so far from the ocean. It seems most salt-water aquariums tend to be close to salt-water sources.


trying to promote a park that is simply a "green field" is like trying to get 10 people to agree to order a cheese pizza NO TOPPINGS.

there is a natural inclination to fussy up these things. besides, what do you need to build a green field? not enough contractors....

but really, wow, that would be really nice there. i way preferred union square in SF when it was a green grass square...


Portland could do an aquarium that emphasizes freshwater ecology: Rivers, lakes and wetlands around the world. Most aquariums are close to seawater sources because so many large cities are on coastlines and have a ready source. You really need a major metropolis like Chicago to pull off an inland saltwater aquarium, because seawater is expensive to make and maintain.

But there's a lot of education and conservation value in focusing on rivers -- and has the benefit of not doing what "everybody else" is doing right now.

Put a lot of effort into showcasing the Columbia River and all of its tributaries. Sturgeon tanks instead of shark tanks. For tropical stuff, use Amazon River or Congo River or African Great Lakes instead of coral reefs. Lots of interesting stuff can be done with fresh water habitats, and not many aquariums are doing that right now.

And yeah, if we put an aquarium there, we definitely should have a fish hatchery, maybe tying into Tanner Creek somehow.

Freshwater version of the Seattle Aquarium ... it's probably doable, and really should be on the list.

Ben Waterhouse

I doubt any aquarium could survive in Portland with the competition in Newport. I'd love to see the site turned into a Gasworks-style park that preserves some of the industrial elements, with one of the buildings remodeled to house a Portland history museum. The OHS museum is nice, but it has nothing whatsoever on the history of the city. I think we need an experiential museum along the lines of the Royal Museum in Victoria (though a little raunchier) before Phil Stanford is the only person left with any interest in the city's past.


djk - excellent idea. I love the river acquarium and education center - and could also be integrated with that idea for a river taxi/ferry thingie the city keeps talking about.


NYTimes today had a piece about the other Portland (Maine) and about a public marketplace.


Although not an apples to apples comparison, it still reaffirms my belief that the Mills needs to be a place where people will want to go on a daily/weekly basis and buy local.

SF has the Ferry Building Market and Seattle has Pikes Market. Portland has done well with the seasonal Saturday and Farmer markets, perhaps this is the next step.


Last post didn't like my direct link.


NYTimes Portland Maine Market Article Link

Ron Jennings

Frisbee throwing can have the fields park on tues. evenings. Centenn1al Mill should have the Maritime Museum and related shops on ground floor with river tour boats at dockside and picnic area where part of old mill cannot be saved. The 2nd. & 3rd. floor to become rental market place. The remaining floors then can become Artists Lofts which are badly needed in this aera. Nuff said. Thats it.

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