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Downtown River Road

A unique opportunity for an empty building

A large mural on the former Goodwill building in River Road illustrates what an eco-friendly cluster of neighborhood scale local businesses might look like. There is a cafe, a bakery and small grocery with boxes of veggies out front. 

The scene I painted 10 years ago is complete with images of real people from the neighborhood meeting and greeting each other and even favorite Eugene guitar player Eagle Park Slim.

The permaculture landscaping in the mural is all edible and includes container plants, veggie beds and trellises. Farther down the wall is a bike shop and finally a street car to the southeast corner. The mural extends almost 80 feet end to end.

Commonly referred to as the Goodwill building, the property will have potential for bringing the mural to real life. Several enthusiastic nearby neighbors have formed a committee to help, over time, find a new business or group of businesses to make use of the space in ways that can benefit River Road’s culture and well being. 

The family that owns the vacant building lives nearby, is civic minded and would welcome a use for the building that can also benefit the neighborhood.

The building features 9,500-plus square feet on the ground level with another 500 on the second floor, plenty of space to subdivide for multiple occupancy. The ideal would be to have one or two anchor tenants to sub-lease. There are a variety of successful examples of multiple small businesses sharing a larger space in Eugene.

For years, people in River Road have dreamed about a new casual meeting place like the former cooperative Solstice Bakery. Local residents would love a natural food store, bakery, bookstore, public meeting and performance place, office space, bike shop or small retail. At last December’s Holiday Dessert Potluck hosted by the River Road Community Organization, four out of five attendees identified a natural food store as the most wanted enhancement for the neighborhood. At the present time, there is no natural food store between Whiteaker and Corvallis. 

Imagine a downtown River Road. This is the location. Hilliard Street, the cross street, extends to the west, with many side streets reaching deep into the neighborhood — easy access by bike and walking to “downtown” for the entire middle part of River Road neighborhood. 

Hilliard also extends east a couple of tree-lined blocks to the River Bike Path. In addition to the surrounding neighborhoods, River Road is the most important thoroughfare connecting north River Road and Santa Clara with downtown and west Eugene. Eugene’s EmX may also add to the transportation mix within a few years.

City of Eugene land-use policy is to create walkable neighborhoods. Making creative use of the Goodwill building is a timely opportunity to move smartly in that direction. Given trends in resources, climate change, economics and culture, it makes great sense to localize business to the neighborhood scale. 

The neighborhood citizen committee is one example of an emerging green culture in River Road. In recent years, the River Road area has seen an upsurge in permaculture and building green community with an expanding level of mutual assistance networks and on the ground projects. There could be great synergy between River Road’s expanding green culture and like-minded businesses.

The Goodwill building presents a rare opportunity: 1) a welcoming local population that is underserved by exactly the same kinds of businesses that would be a good fit for the site, 2) historical trends are saying go local and green, 3) the building can accommodate a variety of interior design layouts, and 4) the owners would like to see tenants that would enhance the well being of the neighborhood. 

The citizen committee is available to assist progressive businesses to find out more. Arrangements can be made to see the space, meet the owners and local residents. Please contact Clare Strawn at clarestrawn@gmail.com or me at janrspencer@gmail.com