The glorious weekend was a terrific opportunity to check out Eugene's version of Sunday Streets. Salem also defines itself as more conservative than those wacky hippies in Eugene, but at least the cities are of directly comparable size, nearly identical in fact, and so in some ways it provides better examples, both positive and negative, for comparison and learning. Salem does have things to learn from Portland, but we also would do well to consider the examples of Corvallis and Eugene. While I long for the ambition of Portland's longer routes and greater frequency, it may be that more modest events provide a more realistic model.
If you visit Eugene often, little or none of this will be new or possibly even interesting, but perhaps some readers aren't often in Eugene, and maybe there will be something interesting here for you. Here anyway are a few observations. Sunday Streets was great fun, but it was other details that were actually more interesting.
|Kesey Square, Sizzle Pie, Starbucks on the former Pedestrian Mall:|
A Changing Eugene
|Same intersection, Willamette and Broadway, 1971|
(University of Oregon)
Now it is gentrifying, with a Sizzle Pie and Starbucks, and there a lively sidewalk and cafe life. In Kesey Square there were also food trucks, and just behind it is an outpost of Voodoo Donuts.
|Broadway and Willamette - Kesey Square on southeast corner|
So that intersection really seemed to distill a quintessence of Eugene's current moment.
And in fact at the Sunday Streets, the City of Eugene had a booth where they were talking about "Envision Eugene," a proposal for a major expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary as well as some zoning changes. Around town you could see signs and pockets of resistance to "forced rezoning."
On a quick-hit it is of course not at all possible to assess the project in any meaningful way. Maybe the UGB expansion is wise, maybe not. It might just be sweetener in a quid-pro-quo for more density in the central city or in other quarters inside the UGB. Or perhaps the commitment to sprawled-out low-density single-family housing is just that strong.
The more interesting question for a non-resident and visitor was that prospect of up-zoning in the central city and enhancing the walkable and bikeable urban scale.
|Zoning on Eugene's Streetcar-era Grid|
Government/urban renewal wasteland in red
UO in blue PL area, S- districts are special overlay-type zones
(City of Eugene)
A lot of the jumbled texture reminded me of Sleepy Hollow and the area south of Mission Street and west of Bush Park: Older homes rezoned for commercial, random pods of apartment redevelopment, one-way couplets to speed through-traffic. It retains the strengths of the underlying streetcar-era grid, but autoism and cheap density make parts of it quite ugly and even zoomy. Other parts of it recalled the pre-urban-renewal character of the Hollywood district. These are impressions only, and maybe if you know Eugene well, you can think of other, more trenchant comparisons.
|House rezoned for commercial use on lower-traffic bikeway|
|Forthcoming dedicated ROW for West EMX|
(Blair & West 6th)
|Blair Boulevard in the Whiteaker neighborhood|
|Covered Bike Parking at Falling Sky taphouse and deli|
(at the terminus of Blair at 8th Avenue)
|Y-intersection of Blair and Van Buren|
The circa 1913 barn was an old blacksmith shop
Crime is down. Rents are up. The war is over; the bums lost.
And little evidence stands to testify that the Whiteaker’s cheerful main drag was once fiercely defended territory shared by an odd coalition of gutter punks, home bums, activists, artists and anarchists who delighted in locking horns with cops, city commissioners and real estate developers.
|The new Library is right next to the Transit Mall|
|Bikeway and sidewalk tunnel in midrise apartment block|
|Traffic Diverter at 10th and Adams|
|Sunday Streets Route in Blue - about 1.4 miles long|
The streets were also relatively big, and the absence of cars on them a special pleasure. On the route, the City of Eugene formally rates Hilyard, 24th, and Agate all as minor arterial streets. So it was nice that the street closures weren't just on the small neighborhood streets formally rated "local streets."
19th and Agate has a McMenamins and a Prince Puckler ice cream shop, for example. Imagine a route in Salem on Broadway that had Boon's and the Broadway Coffeehouse on it! It was the integration of neighborhood businesses that seemed most interesting to me, not the activity centers and booths at the parks.
|Eugene Sunday Streets on 24th Ave at University Park|
(via Eugene Sunday Streets)
Have you visited a Eugene Sunday Streets? What did you think of it?
Postscript, October 30th
A reader sends in this very nice vintage picture of the McMorran and Washburne Department Store building designed by A.E. Doyle and constructed in 1928. That's the building with Sizzle Pie in it on the corner across from Kesey Square at Willamette and Broadway.
|McMorran & Washburne Department Store by A.E. Doyle|
Renovated in 2012 as Broadway Commerce Center
(City of Eugene)
Before that was the Chrisman block of 1891, apparently demolished in 1913 for the McMorran & Washburn building. (Except that leaves quite a gap from 1913 to 1928. But that's not for us here to figure out!)
(Update: Second post on history is here.)