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'Our riverfront is our downtown': Eugene closer to buying EWEB property

Aerial image from waterfront redevelopment master plan.

EUGENE, Ore. - Envision this: turning 17 acres of idle blacktop a few feet from the Willamette River into a lively urban neighborhood.

"It has the capacity to add so much to our community in terms of adding housing, adding retail, adding amenities around the river," Mayor Lucy Vinis said earlier this year about her hopes for the waterfront project.

Months later, there's still no price tag for this plan to connect the Willamette River to Downtown Eugene.

"So I'm really happy to hear us re-tooling in on the focus that our riverfront is our downtown," Councilor Mike Clark said Wednesday.

The Council heard a presentation from City staff about plans to close a deal with the Eugene Water & Electric Board to buy land the utility no longer needs along the river.

Then the City would turn around and sell the land to a developer.

The goal: transform the space into apartments, retail shops, restaurants, parks and more.

"I think there is an expectation that we would sell the property, either to Williams and Dame or, if that doesn't work out, we can't reach an agreement, we would move in another direction," said Denny Braud, the City's development director.

Officials shed no light on when anything may be built, but the ideas keep on coming.

"One of the concepts they are talking about is adding an additional pedestrian bridge and connection across the park," said Sarah Medary, the City's interim Public Works Director. The plan calls for a 3-acre park near the old steam plant on the property.

Councilor Betty Taylor wants "inclusionary zoning" on any housing projects there.

"If we had inclusionary zoning, it would help prevent it from being just a place for rich people," she said.

But don't expect the buildings to go up any time soon.

Officials still have not committed to any timeline for the projects except for a 2020 start to create the park.

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