EUGENE, Ore. -- After years of planning, construction is underway at the former EWEB property along the Willamette River.
Demolition started Thursday near 4th & High street. Crews are currently working to tear down The Midgley building, which used to house businesses including the EWEB Child Development Center.
This is only the beginning of a two-year project that is set to radically change the landscape of the riverfront area.
There are two major pieces to the project.
The first is a $14 million, three-acre riverfront park being built by the city. The second is a 17-acre mixed-use retail and residential space, which is being spearheaded by a private developer.
Project manager for the park, Emily Proudfoot, said the project is long overdue.
"For a couple hundred years we’ve turned out back on the river because it was scary right?" said Proudfoot. "It would flood out the whole town. While it was a resource, it was (also) threat to many people’s livelihood”
Now she says it is a reason to celebrate the area and she hopes it will spark pride when people think of the riverfront area.
"People are dying to get back to the river. They want to swim in it safely, they want to boat in it, they want to see it, they want to access it. The river is the heart of our community," said Proudfoot.
She said Eugene has bike paths and greenery along the river, but the project adds an urbanscape that the city has been lacking.
She also said they will be working toward enhancing the habitat along the river's edge.
"It'll be a really nice balance I think of having habitat enhancement and an urban riverfront park.," Proudfoot continued. "Where people can come experience the river, have a beer, have a coffee, play with their children. That's the vision."
Neighbors said they see this project working as a huge benefit to repurpose what they say is a great location.
"They did the same thing with Northeast Portland which used to be, when I first moved there, a very rough neighborhood," said Thomas Owen, a Eugene resident. "Now people have come in and restored these Victorian homes and made condos out of them and now it's a really nice area to shop"
Proudfoot says that the goal is to have the entire park completed by the time the track and field world championship comes to Eugene in 2021.
Attached are pictures of what the plans for the park look like.