Downtown Eugene

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

West Broadway Specifics

Dear Mayor and Council,

West Broadway is increasingly healthy !

Please don't hurt it.

It is the heart of Eugene's nightlife !

People from all walks of life, from professors to mechanics, teachers to roofers, find their way to West Broadway for a social drink -- because of the stunning diversity of local establishments there!! Since it's a pedestrian-friendly area, they can socialize, eat, entertain themselves, and sober up, without driving. And there are popular all-ages activities too, where high-schoolers mingle with retirees.

Mike Clark says "I think it is fundamentally broken in this area." This is dangerously imprecise talk from a public official, extremely negative, and a direct threat to all of us, who have actually rolled up our sleeves, and made West Broadway the most lively district in town.

So let's get to specifics. What's a problem, and what is not?

Problem: Mad street people. Mike has trouble with one street person. We all know him.
Solution: This person should be offered help & psychiatric care.

Problem: North Side at-risk-youth. These kids are just bored, so they hang together, in the space Symantec abandoned. Sometimes they beg for money. More rarely, they get in trouble.
Solution: An opportunity center and school, in this space. There are several non-profits with fascinating, community-participatory ideas for a school there. It works -- the at-risk youth in front of Network Charter School do not beg for money.

Problem: Holes in the ground, caused by the City, and developers.
Solution: Build "housing in the holes". And ONLY in the holes. Please leave the rest of our buildings alone!

Problem: Center Court building
Solution: Let it rent. It was full, until recently, and then emptied on purpose. A non-profit wanted to buy it, but local elitists prevented this. It's a perfectly viable building, as it is.

Problem: Day-time activity
Solution: Most of the businesses and schools on West Broadway would love to be busier during the day. Some investment from the City would make that possible, at a far lower cost than KWG's "guaranteed profit" demand.

Because it is so disjoint from reality, the current, dangerously vague planning process, also addresses non-problems.

Not a problem: KWG wants to turn West Broadway into an "entertainment district".
Reason: West Broadway already is this!! Market forces, and committed people, did this work already. Why would you destroy it?

Not a problem: Lack of shopping
Reason: Does every place need to be a shopping district?! There are lots of local shopping areas already, and there are dead streets all over downtown ... why would you destroy the heart of Eugene's nightlife, to create a daytime shopping district? That's extremely wasteful. Does no one care about efficiency anymore?

Not a problem: Lack of housing.
Reason: First, we must see if "housing in the holes" is viable. Also, please keep in mind, that if you want a lively nightlife district, you don't want much housing. All around the world, the most dense nightlife is separated from housing. West Broadway never had much housing, and doesn't "need" it. And why would you remove buildings, full of businesses, to do it? Why is the housing "better" than the businesses? Why would you want to unnecessarily make that judgement, and destroy people's work? Why not build housing, instead, on surface parking lots, a block away?

Not a problem: The Washburne building
Reason: It's 90% full !! The City should step back from it. Similarly, why is the Tango Center building threatened by the council? It is 83% occupied, and draws 500 sober people downtown every week. It should be protected by the council.

Not a problem: Drinking
Reason: This is legal activity, and safest in a pedestrian-friendly place like West Broadway, where food, dancing and music are also available.

Not a problem: The poor and disenfranchised
Reason: They have the right to gather in the heart of Eugene, too. If you want to help them, then help them -- but don't try to kick them out, just because you don't want to see them.

Please, please consider passing a resolution not to destroy businesses and non-profits on West Broadway. Even if you think "something" is wrong with West Broadway -- then, like a doctor, you must "first do no harm". Threatening us, with this planning process, has already been harmful.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Rise of Anti-drink-establishment-arianism

West Broadway is improving, by itself, very rapidly. Another local restaurant/bar opened up, and is already very popular.

And yet the calls for "tearing down West Broadway" and cries of "something is broken there" are getting louder. This is destructive and anti-business, and yet people trying to stop the destruction, are labeled "anti-business" ... presumably because we are against developers who want to destroy our lives.

But there is a strong undercurrent here ... a teetotaler's agenda. West Broadway is now "the bar district". You can walk among 10 bars here at night, all within sight of each other. It's a pretty nice scene, tempered by food booths, dancing and art projects.

There are just some people who don't like to see the poor hanging out. They don't like kids "hanging around". And they don't like to see people drunk. But, they have the legal right to do these things. So the underlying "morals" cannot be articulated. Instead, generalities like "we want something more upscale" or "it's just scary down there" are spoken in hushed tones. The fact that adults talk this way, hiding their intolerance with euphenism, is just another sign of the elite dysfunction in the body politic.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Multi-purpose community centers

A very easy solution to filling empty spaces on West Broadway:

Multi-purpose community centers.

These mixed, public/private/ngo partnerships, with music, internet, food, retail, services etc., are in high-demand. And they are very easy to start. Just hold regular meetings of people who want to initiate projects and businesses. They will find each other.

West Broadway broken? Compared to what?

Here's the Jacob gallery, a "high-end", and high-concrete, "pedestrian street", which lacks any sign of pedestrian life, in the middle of the day. No one says that this, or the "gallery district", or many other "clean", and sterile, parts of downtown, are "broken".

And yet West Broadway, which always has actvity -- is considered "broken"? It's because the kids and homeless people are not "people"? They are, in fact, citizens. looking for something to do. And so are the 2,000 people a week who come to the Bars on West Broadway. Do they not have the legal right to drink and dance?

Except for the Bus stop, West Broadway is the most successful part of downtown. It could be more successful, but the City is threatening to tear it down to "make it work". Destroying the village to save it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

West Broadway has only four small problems

West Broadway has only four problems. They are simple problems, with simple solutions, much less expensive than proposals on the table to destroy existing businesses and schools on the street.

1. Center Court: This building is completely empty. Beam has made a proposal to fill it, in cooperation with KWG. That makes sense. (Note that including the full Washburne building in this project makes NO sense).

2. Aster Hole: Beam also has a proposal to build something on this lot, and fill it. Sounds good.

3. Sear's lake: KWG has proposed to build housing here, and on some of the adjacent parking lot. That makes sense. Tearing down buildings that are mostly full, makes NO sense.

4. The Northside Vacuum (former Symantec-occupied storefronts): If the City offered subsidies to move in here, probably as little as a year's rent, people would jump all over the opportunity.

That's it. Note that, in the current process, if these small problems were solved, West Broadway would be revived. But if there is more ambition, including the destruction of other people's work, and insane judgments about what is "good business" vs. "undesirable business", more subsidies, more initiatives, more rancor, more lawsuits ... nothing at all will happen! At worst, there will be destruction AND nothing will result.

Stick to the small stuff. Make the little projects work, and don't try to fix the parts that ain't broken.