Property Owner Offers To Open Up Brick Walls Of Kesey Square

The clock may be ticking for the unique bit of open space in Eugene’s downtown that is Kesey Square. But Ali Emami, owner of the two buildings that have common walls with the plaza, says that when he heard rumors the public space might be sold and developed into apartments, he came before the Eugene City Council last week to again renew his offer to open up the walls of the buildings and make the space more inviting.

The square, also known as Broadway Plaza, is home to food carts, public art and periodic gatherings, but it also garners complaints about the unhoused youth and travelers who hang out there. A frequent criticism of the space is the tall brick walls on the south and east sides of the square that close it in.

Councilor Betty Taylor tells EW she is hearing that the square “will be sold to developers,” and while she can’t substantiate those rumors, “I can say that I think it would be a huge mistake.”

The Eugene City Council met in an executive session on Monday, Oct. 12. Under Oregon law, government officials can meet in executive session instead of in an open meeting for certain set reasons and if the reason is generally stated. City staff did not return EW’s requests for confirmation that the session discussed selling Kesey Square before press time; however, the stated reason was to “negotiate real property transactions and to consult with counsel concerning the legal rights and duties of a public body with regard to current litigation or litigation likely to be filed.”

According to the Oregon Department of Justice, “A governing body meeting in executive session must return to public session before taking final action.”

Emami, who is also an instructor of finance at the UO, says he first made his offer to open up the walls of the buildings that currently house Voodoo Doughnuts and Northwest Persian Rugs and Imports back in 1995. He renewed his offer in 2004, but, he says, the city told him if it was done, it would be revocable. He pointed out that might result in his spending thousands of dollars, only to have the work undone. He says he’s still willing to make the changes to keep the property public and make it more usable.

In the last six weeks, Kesey Square has been the site of a Eugene Education Association “Better Oregon” campaign kickoff, performances during First Friday ArtWalk, an emergency preparedness fair, tabling for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and frequent appearances of the Oregon Duck mascot before home football games.