Downtown Eugene

Monday, September 10, 2007

Incremental doesn't mean "consecutive"

There's some confusion about stepwise improvements to an urban fabric -- I've heard it expressed like this "Do we want to do it all at once or incrementally?"

The basic principle of urban revitalization, is to preserve the good, improve things with potential, and bring new things where nothing exists. Very rarely do you tear things down -- that's Urban Renewal, a destructive, discredited form of cronyism disguised as public good.

But in making incremental improvements to a large urban area, there is no reason that small changes cannot be made in several places at once. In a living organism, sensitive positive changes happen simulataneously. But they must be aware of each other. Two people shouldn't open the same kind of shop without knowing about each other, just as a human embryo, doing many things at once, shouldn't grow two spleens.

In the case of downtown Eugene, a project at Center Court/Aster's hole, another in the Sear's lake and it's parking lot (whether housing, or a park), and another in the former Bon Marche/Symantec building, would pretty much be all that's required to complete West Broadway's revitalization -- assuming that nothing existing is damaged.

Of course, these non-consecutive incremental changes, are still incremental, based on complete knowledge of the ground. You wouldn't clearcut a forest to build a sustainable culture there, and similarly, you can't destroy a neighborhood and expect to create a new one from scratch. These failed, sterile, all-at-once urban renewal projects litter downtowns around the country, and the victims of such schemes are perfectly aware of the horrors that were perpetrated with their tax dollars.


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