Jul 15, 2007

Eugene Goes For Facelift Number. . .(I lost count)

Kudos to Jack Bog's blog for bringing attention to Eugene's latest idea for downtown revitalization- mixed use condos, apartments, maybe a hotel (what? no Whole Foods? No Symantec?), all of it heavily subsidized by federal money and/or tax increment financing.

Oh, this one cracks me up. My family moved from Portland to Eugene in 1968. This was just in time to watch Eugene utilize, you guessed it-- urban renewal. The city demolished their downtown core and turned it into a car-free pedestian mall. Many historic buildings were demolished in the process. I have no idea how many millions of tax dollars it cost, but the project was an utter and complete failure.

The pedestrian mall turned into a ghost town. It killed the downtown core. Literally. For a time in the 70's, when I was working at Chrystalship records (HI! Chrystalship time!) on the pedestrian mall, it and a hi-fi store, and Brownie's Karmel corn were the only thriving businesses.

Later, all the new commercial developers passed up downtown Eugene and built complexes out near Valley River Center and the elsewhere. I always wondered why they didn't build in the downtown core.

The list of failed projects in downtown Eugene is long, starting with the initial urban renewal project in 1968, which resulted in the demolition of many historic buildings.

The Hilton Hotel/Convention was supposed to "save downtown", if I remember correctly. It didn't.

I heard that the downtown area trees were basically "clearcut", what a waste.

Symantec located downtown for a while, but as soon as their tax abatement expired, they took the midnight train outta-town.

And now on the table is a proposal to De-mall and condo-ize downtown. Why not, what the heck, right?

I believe Eugene's original sins were:

(1) to allow the construction of the Valley River Mall, and

(2) to NOT prohibit commercial construction anywhere but their downtown core.

You know what, though? In spite of the problems there, I love Eugene. It was a great place to grow up. It's still a great town. (But not as great as Troutdale mind you. . . .)

Viva Eugene!

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