Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 5.31.07

Intelligent Design
UO students share their theory of downtown resuscitation

KWG and Beam Developments both won bids to redevelop downtown and now must build an efficient relationship with the greater community of Eugene in order to craft the best possible plan to rehabilitate downtown Eugene.


The task ahead of the city will certainly not be easy. Nearly every neighborhood already draws the attention of its residents away from downtown; this is going to be a difficult trend to reverse. We have some ideas before any further steps are taken.

Mix and match. If everything is the sum of its parts, the designers must be keenly aware of the specific parts that make a city a city and make Eugene Eugene. It should be a unified community in its own right. Mixed-use buildings that combine residential, commercial and leisure spaces will help the new downtown community succeed. The city of Eugene should demand that the developers utilize sustainable building and smart growth practices. The combination of businesses on the ground level and housing, for all levels of income, on the story above would go a long way in helping establish a community. With these design tactics, residents might be more likely to patronize the new downtown business because they’re living right above them.

An all day affair. Ideally a downtown should have enough homes, business, and recreational activities to draw people in during the morning and keep them coming ’til last call. Without a lively social scene, the only people who use downtown are street kids, who only contribute to the same unwelcoming atmosphere we have now. This downtown should be awake from 9 am to 2 am.

Support your local boutique — and more. We think it is important to support local business such as Rennie’s and Sundance, but we also see the need for something else. Throwing a Borders or Jamba Juice in the mix won’t kill anyone and would probably bring bigger crowds than people would like to admit, but just remember to keep the local guys in mind.

Step by step. Hoofing it from place to place should be measured in feet, not blocks. It’s nice to get shopping, dinner, a show and a drink within a few blocks. Think small. Compress. The new design shouldn’t make it necessary to drive rather than walk from one destination to another in downtown Eugene.

Everybody in the living room. Downtowns need a living room, a place to hang out and socialize, something better than waiting for your transfer at the bus station and something bigger or more comfortable than the corner of Willamette and Broadway. Greenery in the form of a park block or green roofs would go well in this town.

If you cook it, they will come. Why not a kitchen to go with the living room? Give us dives, diners, greasy spoons serving breakfast all day, pizzerias, smoothie bars, ice cream parlors, burger joints, steak houses and fancy delicatessens, and the streets will be congested like the right ventricle of Colonel Sanders himself.

Happy hour power. When it comes to spending, drunken sailors have nothing on a freshly turned 21-year-old student. On the corners of Broadway and Olive, a robust and lively pub district is screaming to be built. Saturate this area with pubs and venues galore, and maybe cut off auto traffic at night we can all stumble to our next destination in relative safety.

Movie + beer + pizza = hole in my pocket. We’ve heard talk about putting a multiplex theater downtown. Eugene already has some 44 commercial screens within a seven-mile radius. Do something we haven’t seen yet, please! Perhaps the McMenamins brothers could get in on the action and give Eugene its own Bagdad Theater. A smaller restaurant/movie theater combination can do the same jobs as the Bijou and the megaplexes on a way smaller scale.

Pulling off a balancing act between maintaining the Eugene aesthetic while trying to inject new life into the heart of town is hardly an enviable job — but you’ve been begging for this job, KGW and Beam. Now it’s your turn to show Eugene what you’re made of. Good luck!

Austin Berger, Mike Perrault, Sydney Smeed and Megan Udow are UO journalism majors. They hail from Hillsboro, Portland, Eugene and Vancouver, B.C.


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