Downtown Eugene

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Peck of Park Patterns

A park, 1/4 - 1/2 of a block in size, across from the library, is a capital idea. But I've heard worries about its becoming a "problem". This is code for "poor people" and "youth". Hardly problems. We just have to make sure that everyone mixes well.

The Library Park provides a great opportunity for local economic development. Here are a few ideas to make this a lively public space:

Extend the library hours

There's no reason the library can't be open until midnight. The City could do a $5 "cover charge" for 9pm - midnight, and provide a band, to pay for the library staff. People would pay it. The Library Evening could become quite a scene ... lectures, music, literary circles, vendors, etc.

Extend the bus hours

Keeping LTD active later, especially on weekends, could pay for itself. Local venues & pubs can get involved in raising ridership, bus awareness and making the system easier to use. And, it could lower incidents of drunk driving.

Extend the Atrium hours

The ground floor of the Atrium is a terrific evening venue. Any number of local entrepreneurs would rent this space, charge a cover, and hold events there.

Vendors in the park

An incubation program for vendors, in collaboration with LCC and Saturday Market, would make the park a place to eat, snack and shop late into the evening. All that's needed is some rain shelter, awnings, arcades etc.

Vendors in the surrounding buildings

Arcades and awnings provide shelter from the rain ... if they are high enough, they allow sun through. Small shops, vendors and food providers can line the two sides of the park, and extend down the alleyway. This is a permanent market presence.

Benches, tables, chairs, awnings, fountains and amenities

Loose tables and chairs for people to sit. Fountains for people to splash around. Trees for shade. Bicycle valet parking for those willing to brave the elements. Awnings and tents to protect people from the elements.

Infill housing

We've identified a number of places to put housing on top of the surrounding buildings. And, of course, an affordable housing complex on the West side of the park, perhaps with a local CDC like St. Vincent de Paul's, with ground floor shops and a close integration with the park, would be ideal.

1/4 block of apartments: Student housing and affordable housing

The collapse of the speculative housing market doesn't mean everyone has a place to live:

a) Affordable housing -- the local St. Vincent de Paul is committed to developing affordable housing, and the site is city-owned.

b) UO Student housing -- the University continues to expand its housing on and off campus, but why not place car-less students (graduates, undergraduates, and their families) downtown? It's across the street from the fastest bus to the University, and would help to connect students to downtown.

Use your resources: The Tango Center, New Zone, DIVA, Bradford's, The Farmer's Market, etc ...

The surrounding small businesses, co-ops and non-profits are over-flowing with ideas, but are underfunded. They would all certainly take responsibility for programming activity, to connect the park to the rest of the Eugene community.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Boondoggles vs. nothing?

Portland's auditor recently issued a finding, that in Portland, areas with Urban Renewal funding have higher property values than areas without Urban Renewal funding. Even if that is your goal (Should it be? Why is expensive property a public good?), what kind of comparison is that? "Massive, wasteful spending" vs. "no spending at all"?

The problem is a lack of "political clout" among alternative revitalization approaches, to make a case for a comparison. For example, CDC's can efficiently create jobs with community-driven revitalization and incubation programs, but these are not compared with Urban Renewal. They should be. If you compared the economic benefit of government small business aid programs (all of which are gone now, like CITA from the 1970's) the efficiency of public benefit, as contrasted with Urban Renewal, would be extraordinary.

Having impoverished community-driven development in the past 20 years, Urban Renewal has eliminated the competition for tax money, freeing it for gentrification projects. Luckily, we can still refer all Urban Renewal spending to the ballot, but there must be organized opposition to do this. Most people aren't close enough to the City's schedule to know when it is possible ... but whenever you hear about "expansion of an Urban Renewal district" or "raising the spending ceiling on Urban Renewal", you can bet that someone is pushing to destroy some affordable neighborhood to benefit landlords and private development interests. If we all pay attention, and refer spending to the ballot, we can stop this horrific practice, in our respective Cities.