Old Mill District - 2016 Global Awards for Excellence Finalist
June 23, 2016
Location: Bend, Oregon
Developer: William Smith Properties Inc.
Designer: Ken Kay Associates, Mayer/Reed, Terry Krause & Richard Spies Mackenzie, and David Welch & Richard Brooks CIDA
Site Size: 270 acres
Over the pasts 20 years, the master developer of the Old Mill District, located next to Bend’s downtown district, has restored and redeveloped nine historic structures, transforming the site into a bustling retail district and the epicenter of the region’s new economy. After generations of barriers, people now have access to a cleaned-up riverfront with views of the Cascade Mountains and extensive open space with a mixture of leisure and recreational activities. The Old Mill District is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most thriving places. The site includes approximately 1.1 million sq. ft. of office space, 275,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 100 acres of open space, 21 acres of industrial space, 2,400 sq. ft. of educational space, 20,000 sq. ft. of civic space, three hotels, 30 condominiums, and 151 single family homes and townhomes. The estimated total investment in the district exceeds $165 million.
The retail component of the District features 55 local, regional and national stores and restaurants, offices, an 8,000 patron amphitheater, cinema complex and art galleries, hotels, homes, a park, and recreation facilities. Old Mill District is anchored by a 28,000 sq. ft. REI store located in the Powerhouse Building, iconized by its three massive smokestacks. With a critically needed boost to the region’s economy, the region was able to transition from a resource based economy to a more balanced one with tourism as one of its largest economic drivers. Tourism brings 3.6 million annual visitors to the community. The amphitheater and a signature event, the Bend Brewfest, have an economic significance to the community of over $27 million. A 12 acre parcel on the west side of the river is zoned for hotel and mixed-use development and an additional 7 acres will be developed for retail and office. In 2015 alone, the Old Mill District generated over 5,000 jobs and $9.4 million in property taxes, with no public monies, grants, tax abatements or subsidies of any kind.
River clean-up, riverbank restoration and the creation of 100 acres of new open space including recreational access along 3 miles of riverfront create a catalytic new place to live, work, play, and enjoy nature. An environmental clean-up of the river and riverbanks along with restoring the river ecology, dramatically increased the value of the land, which had been off-limits for generations. Over one-third of the District is open space extending on both sides of the river, connected by pedestrian bridges, plazas, parks and three miles of walk/bike trails linked to 40 miles of city trails. The Old Mill District is Bend’s destination hub for active outdoor fun, including a whitewater play park, standup paddle boarding, outrigger canoeing, swimming, volleyball, fly-fishing, biking, walking, and running. Recognizing this innovative combination of brownfield recycling and natural resource restoration, the U.S. EPA in 2002 honored the Old Mill District with its Phoenix Award.