Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Historic Willamette District in West Linn

Some cities have a great supply of historic buildings and others have to create their downtown, or fill in where buildings have been demolished or just didn't exist. In the Willamette District of West Linn, they have a bit of both. They have a small historic district and have added the "historic feel" to the zoning and overlay standards in their Community Development Code, creating new development which you can see by clicking on Willamette District. There are blocks of "new" development, all done in the context of the historic area, fitting in with the "feel" of the entire district.
Many cities wonder how to monitor the development of new buildings within their historic downtown or neighborhood commercial centers. West Linn has done that extremely well. (See Chapter 25 of their Community Development Code for the overlay criteria for the Historic District. There is also an overlay for the Willamette Falls Drive Area.)
The Willamette District is also an "exploring Main Street" in the State of Oregon's Main Street Program.
The Willamette District has angled parking, protected from traffic by landscape barriers and a row of parallel parking. They have incorporated abundant planters and small, pocket parks for gathering in the district. They have outdoor dining areas, which enliven the street and provide additional visits to the retail stores. There are historic single family homes which have been converted to commercial uses, adding to the interesting look of the area.
If you visit, don't miss the great restaurants, the Holly Hill Quilt Shoppe, Lavendar Bleu Gift Shop and Tea Room, West Linn Farmer's Market on Tuesdays and the garden shop on the south west end of the district. (some great pics of it in the slideshow)
According to a planner in West Linn, Sara, the development occurred without subsidy and most of the developers are local. The City used Community Development Block Grant funds for the streetscape features when that funding was available. The City maintains the planters through the Parks Department.
If you haven't visited the historic Willamette Area in West Linn, it is worth it. You will gather a lot of creative ideas on how to "create" more downtown to go with your existing downtown core.

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