The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry is planning for as much as 2 million square feet of new development on its vacant Central Eastside land.
That’s the building area equivalent of two U.S. Bancorp Towers.
The museum, which is working with the Portland developer Gerding Edlen, hasn’t determined what the configuration of buildings might look like.
But OMSI’s redevelopment plan, in the works for years, is expected to include office space, retail storefronts at ground level, a hotel and as many as 500 apartments. A portion of the apartments would have restricted rents in accordance with the city’s inclusionary zoning mandate, which requires affordable units in large residential developments.
OMSI was set to present the first piece of its plan, mostly dealing with street and utility infrastructure, to the Portland Design Commission on Thursday. It expects to meet several more times with the commission, each time with a more developed plan for the 18.5 acres.
The site’s zoning allows up to 1.6 million square feet of development, but density bonuses for providing open space and other amenities could boost that closer to 2 million square feet.
Neighborhood groups have expressed some unease with OMSI’s ambitions for the land, which lies along the Willamette River between the Hawthorne and Tillikum Crossing bridges.
The Central Eastside, historically an industrial district used for manufacturing and warehousing, has become one of the trendiest parts of town for technology companies. It’s now also home to thousands of recently built apartments.
That’s made it increasingly difficult for the legacy industrial businesses to operate, and many have left for other parts of the city.
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OMSI is at odds with Portland planners over whether housing should be allowed near a new light rail station.
OMSI hopes to get final approval from the design commission by the end of the year after several advisory hearings.
It would have to seek additional approval for each building before construction begins, which could be years away.
Ken Wilson, OMSI’s senior director of campus development, said the museum had a target for breaking ground but declined to name it.
“There are so many things that could happen between now and then," he said. “We’re trying not to get people’s hopes up."
The nonprofit museum, which attracts more than a million visitors a year, hopes the construction can help put its finances on firm footing for the long term.
It opened on its current site in 1992 on land donated by Portland General Electric. Construction cost overruns and a damaging flood 1996 put the museum on its heels, struggling to make payments on its debt until a donor and the state each paid $4.6 million to pay down debt.
Gerding Edlen, the developer, would pay the museum for use of the land through decades-long land leases.
— Elliot Njus
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