Downtown Eugene

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Orders of Magnitude

The crowd gathered Friday, March 4 to celebrate the beginning of LCC's project to fill the Sear's pit on 10th avenue. It's all very positive: a local institution makes a concerted effort to bring its services to the heart of the city, along with housing, jobs, etc.

But at the ceremony nobody mentioned, and perhaps few people understood, that this project was only possible because the City was forced by the population to change its strategy towards downtown urban development.

No one mentioned that LCC's project could never have been born if the City of Eugene planners, with the backing of people who stood to profit enormously, had achieved their destructive goals 4 years ago. The City tried to slip nearly $200 million to commercial developers and slumlords. They would have destroyed dozens of downtown small businesses, and the commercial project would have suffered a financial collapse mid-demolition, leaving us with even more downtown pits, and no money to fix them.

The community stopped this all-too-typical boondoggle with a 2-to-1 approval of a ballot measure to defund Urban Renewal, and as a result the City, suitably chastised, now contributes to construction projects in the millions, rather than the hundreds of millions.

This is a huge change of scale. The Beam project is in the millions, the new DAC project is in the millions, and the City's participation in the LCC project is in the millions. This is two orders of magnitude closer to a human-scaled incremental development strategy for downtown. That's progress.