Architect's drawing of the Willamette Falls redevelopment.

After acquiring the 23-acre Blue Heron site near Willamette Falls in 2019, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is now sharing its vision for the future of the culturally significant land. It is a vision that includes environmental and cultural restoration alongside thoughtful new development; a vision that will help restore public access, provide economic prosperity and return the Tribe to the role of caregiver over an important piece of its homeland.

“Acquiring the property at Willamette Falls let us reclaim part of our history and allowed us to once again become stewards of the land and the falls,” said Cheryle A. Kennedy, Chairwoman of the CTGR. “Now, we head into the future with a vision for this land that helps heal it and revitalize it while telling our story and sharing our history.”

The Tribe acquired the property, located on the east bank of the Willamette River in Oregon City, from a private owner in 2019. Since then, the Tribe has been working with a design team from GBD Architects and Walker | Macy to create a vision for the site. Focused around the central idea of healing, the vision will also be guided by the values of spirit, place, people and prosperity.

What that means for the site itself is extensive ecological restoration at the southern end, which would include restoring natural basalt landscape and water channels underneath defunct industrial buildings. Native plantings would be re-established, and restored riparian habitat would provide vast benefits for native fish, birds and other wildlife.

Additionally, the Tribe envisions mixed-use development at the northern end of the site that would visually and physically connect to the restored landscape. Potential development could include office, hospitality, institutional or educational, as well as tribal spaces, public gathering spots, restaurants, retail and a long-imagined riverwalk. Any new development would reflect the story of the Tribe and its historical and cultural connection to Willamette Falls.

“This is a meaningful and exciting time for our Tribe and for everyone who will benefit from the healing and promise of our Willamette Falls site,” Kennedy said. “We look forward to working with all of the partners who share in our vision for the land, from its historical, ecological and cultural significance to its potential to create prosperity for the entire region.”