By Jewel Murphy
As someone who was a downtown retailer for almost 30 years, I’m downtown’s biggest fan.
But I’ve been scratching my head about some recent city decisions. And then when I read about the plans to relocate City Hall to the Lane Community College building across from the LTD bus station, I had to wonder if I was living in some dystopian version of Groundhog Day where we are doomed to repeat the same conversations about City Hall over and over?
The decision to put City Hall in the LCC space is such a bad decision, it’s hard to even know where to start.
But let’s start with a little history. We only have to go back to 2016, when the city hired Project for Public Spaces at considerable expense to help us think about downtown. Out of this work, which involved comments from more than 2,000 people, the concept of a “town square” emerged. It involved siting the Farmers Market and City Hall close together.
As I recall, there was also the suggestion to have a state-of-the-art playground and remake Oak Street and 8th Avenue as two-way streets. All this was specifically designed to increase access and create synergy. The city also went to considerable expense hiring architects to develop drawings and plans.
I don’t see the good in hiring experts and ignoring their well-considered advice. We have a plan and let’s stick to it.
Instead, the city wants to displace LCC and all the students using that building. Because it’s cheap? Is that what we really want? A cheap City Hall across from the bus station? The LCC plan would also leave us with a big gravel lot in prime real estate. Who thinks abandoning prime real estate right next to your Park Blocks anchor tenant without any idea of what you are going to do with it is a good idea?
The plan to use the EWEB building is visionary in a kind of utopic way, but it leaves us with an isolated City Hall. And if you think that will spark riverfront development, I have two words for you: federal courthouse. How many people thought that would spark a riverfront renaissance? Better to leave the EWEB site for a future developer with deep pockets who can do it justice.
We need to use our city dollars for the most impact, use them in a way that will not just give us a functional building but that will enhance our little burg and help all the businesses around it thrive. We have a well considered plan and, yes, we are short of money, but when there’s a will, there’s a way. Don’t throw all that well spent money away and start over again. Let’s be smart.
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Jewel Murphy is a longtime Eugene resident and former owner of Passionflower Design.