OMSI seeks city approval for high-rise development in SE Portland

OMSI District

By Jayati Ramakrishnan

The Oregonian/Oregon Live

Publication date: December 15, 2021

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is one step closer in its plan to transform its southeast waterfront neighborhood.

Museum leaders submitted a proposal for an “OMSI District” to the city on Wednesday. They hope the swath of riverfront land — much of it now vacant — will become an economic driver, featuring high-rise apartment buildings, science centers, and green space, including a waterfront educational park that highlights the history of the area’s tribal communities.

The nonprofit museum has been planning a district space since 2008, and has been consulting with city officials, Metro and tribal governments about what the area should look like. In 2018, it began working with a developer and an architecture firm to formalize its plans.

The proposed district would cover 10 city blocks and include up to 3 million square feet of new mixed-use buildings. It would also add up to 1,200 new housing units, including at least 20% of those dedicated to affordable housing.

The proposal will be reviewed by the Portland Design Commission within four months. If the master plan is approved, OMSI can proceed with the next steps for new development, including the typical permitting process for individual construction projects, said Bureau of Development Services spokesperson Ken Ray.

OMSI received a $750,000 grant from the regional government Metro last year for the district, and the state of Oregon has committed $5 million to rebuilding Water Avenue, which runs along the eastern edge of the proposed district.

Erin Graham, OMSI’s president and chief executive, said the organization is still trying to figure out a total cost estimate for the district, but said they envision the funding will come from both taxpayers and private sources. She said OMSI will also seek philanthropic donations for the district.