2019.01.29.EMG.SEN.Abandoned steam power plant-5.jpg

Eugene Water and Electric Board's retired steam plant is the future sight for a new development along the Willamette riverfront. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Correction on Jan. 25: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Downtown Riverfront Park would be 16 acres. The article has been updated to reflect that the entire Riverfront development is 16 acres, the park making up four of those acres.

There’s a liminal space between the University of Oregon and Autzen stadium. Besides a small soccer field, a bike path and a dog park, there isn’t very much to do next to the Willamette River.

Next summer, however, that will change with the city’s new Riverfront Park.

As part of the Eugene’s Riverfront Master Plan, the 16-acre development will run alongside the river from the DeFazio Bridge to the border of the University of Oregon North Campus property. It’s been a long project, with plans being drawn up as far back as 2007 to transform the space. It will be open to restaurants, hotels, offices, other commercial and retail shops and a four-acre park. To the east there will be housing, and there is also a pedestrian/bike path proposed to be built on the west end of the property, connecting it to Alton Baker Park. Riverfront’s connection to the river is its selling point, said Emily Proudfoot, the city’s landscape architect.

“The main goal of the park is to reconnect Downtown Eugene with the River,” Proudfoot said. “For decades it’s been impossible to see the Willamette River from Downtown and it’s been very hard to find out how to get to the water’s edge. Through the redevelopment of the Downtown Riverfront and the construction of the Downtown Riverfront Park, Eugenians and visitors alike will easily be able to find their way to sweeping views of the Willamette within a beautiful urban riverfront setting.”

"Photos: Inside Eugene's retired riverfront steam plant"

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Construction, or rather demolition, started last summer. The city removed several structures, notably a former Eugene Water & Electric Board building, as well as the asphalt pavement around it. They then removed all non-native invasive species from the river bank as well as 10,000 cubic yards of soil from the top of the bank to create a more gradual slope down to the river.

This coming summer, the city will start work on park features including overlooks, paths, artwork, viewing decks, site furniture, landscapes and lighting. In 2021, the space will be transformed from empty lot and foliage-covered riverbank into a publicly accessible area with shops and sidewalks. The first phase is expected to cost $10 million, according to Proudfoot.

Proudfoot said the park will be completed in time for the World Games in 2021.

“We’ll host a fan festival on the Downtown Riverfront site for the community, track fans, international visitors, athletes and more,” Proudfoot said.

The World Games, or World Athletics Championships, are a track-and-field competition event that brings athletes from around the world. It will be held in the renovated Hayward field in August of 2021. Last year this event was held in Doha, Qatar, and had 206 countries and over 1,700 athletes participating.

The project is set to be completed by 2020 with an opening in spring of 2021. Students at the University of Oregon will be able to access the park via a bike path, along a similar route needed to get to Autzen Stadium.