Oregon science museum plan for redesigned Portland riverside district moves forward

OMSI District

By Elizabeth Castillo


Publication date: March 7, 2023

Plans for the OMSI District Master Plan are shown, in this rendering, supplied in February 2023. The design for the proposed district will add up to 1,200 units of new housing, with at least 20% designated for low-income families, and collaborations with Tribal governments and Indigenous communities to restore riverfront areas, programming and public green space. Courtesy of Gard Communications

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry aims to create a hub for science learning, arts and culture near its location in Portland’s Central Eastside. The plan would transform a 10-block district area surrounding the museum with the construction of a waterfront education park next to the Willamette River, more than a thousand units of housing and public green space.

Erin Graham is the CEO and president of OMSI. She says that while the redesigned district is still years away, she can envision what it will look like.

“There would be outdoor play opportunities for both adults and kids. There would be things that would be surprising and delightful and make you want to come back over and over,” she said. “You would have an affinity for the river because you would be down near it and close to it. You’d understand what we all need to do to clean it up and that you would feel comfortable and welcome.”

Plans for the OMSI District Master Plan are shown, in this aerial rendering, supplied in February 2023. It will add up to three million square feet of new mixed-use buildings. Courtesy of Gard Communications

The proposal was recently approved by the city of Portland Design Commission. Graham hopes that construction will start on necessary infrastructure projects in the next five years — including a street that will contain the district’s utilities.

Ideally, she said, the district will be paid for through a combination of public and private funds, and from OMSI itself.

Graham joined “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller to discuss the district. Listen to the full conversation: