Downside of the Trade

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Only those who see Brussels sprouts as a subversive food plot are against having a more permanent Farmers Market where the “butterfly lot” sits downtown. The parking lot with the tilted surfaces that give it its name knows that it is years past its shelf life and yearns for removal. Give the city and county the credit they deserve for trying to find a way to tear it down and bring us the courthouse square that the Skinners intended as a center of our civic life.

Only a Mr. Cranky would find issues with the city’s proposed land exchange of the county’s Butterfly site for the eastern half of their demolished City Hall block. So I asked Mr. Cranky what he thought those issues might be.

Well, he said, “I think people need to consider more carefully whether it is really a good idea to move our Lane County Courthouse over to High Street. It would separate the Public Service Building (PSB) from the courthouse by two whole blocks. People would go to the PSB information desk looking for the courthouse and be told they now had to go on over to High Street.

“I heard someone from the county say, ‘Why not give us the western half of the City Hall block so the courthouse would still be connected,’ but that of course would send the proposed new City Hall even farther down 8th.” All this breaking apart and spreading out reminds me of the Yeats poem, he said,

Things fall apart

The center will not hold …

“The trade also assumes that the county needs more land,” he continued, “which isn’t the case. The PSB’s original architect said that the courthouse could expand with two more floors over the north end of the PSB. That would be so much less expensive, and more sustainable, than moving and building anew. Besides it could be years and years before the state gets far enough down its courthouse list to fund our project.

“Besides that, I like keeping the courthouse on its historic site and connected to what was supposed to be its permanent open space. That was before we sat idly by and let ‘lawyer magic’ turn park into parking on tilt. We call them the Park Blocks, after the ones in Portland, but it’s really our pioneer courthouse square like all the other pioneer courthouse squares in Oregon cities.”

I asked Mr. Cranky if he had seen the plan that would restore the north Park Block, add a Farmers Market and Skinner Market Square, site the farmers’ building along West Park where the historic county market began, build the new City Hall on the north end of the Butterfly along 7th, and add two new floors over the PSB for the new county courtrooms. He said, “Why no,” and so I showed it to him.

“It creates the strong town center I was trying to talk about,” he said.

I pointed out that the farmers street market on West Park would open through the new market building and out into the square. And it would avoid the mistake of siting the market building too far to the north and losing its 8th Avenue center of intensity. Seventh is for driving through town. Eighth is for going to market.

And as long as the city and county are talking deals, maybe the upper floors of the new City Hall could be the courtrooms the county needs until the county money comes through. There could even be a bridge across. And when the County Courthouse eventually gets to expand, there would be a reservoir of new space freed up for City Hall.

Anyway, I agreed with Mr. Cranky about the downside of the trade. I would hate to have the people at the PSB information desk whispering regretfully behind their hands to one another that the County Courthouse was now Farr, Farr away.

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