Tuesday, November 15, 2016

More Notes on Eugene and Springfield

The long weekend was a chance to check out more of Eugene, and again to think about what a different city our size does well, and what they don't do well. (Not sure there's a theme here, just scattered notes!)

Repurposing a Church for a Food Hub

As folks are thinking about the Mercado/Hub concept for Portland Road as well as prospects for reusing the Jason Lee Memorial Methodist Church on Winter and Fairgrounds, the example of Sprout! Regional Food Hub in Springfield might make for a very interesting comparison.

Sprout! Regional Food Hub
is in the former First Christian Church
in downtown Springfield
(via Sprout!)

In the deconsecrated sanctuary, the Springfield Farmer's Market
(via SW Oregon Architect)
In addition to hosting a market, it has several small restaurants with outdoor seating in a courtyard, an outpost of Claim 52 Brewing, a commercial kitchen for rent, and event spaces. (The pub is called "the Abbey," and that functions both as a nod to Trappist brewing traditions and other abbey ales, and also perhaps offers a contrasting hit with a slightly transgressive buzz on the notion of "beer in church!")

Bus Rapid Transit

Double dedicated lanes for EMX in median on Pioneer Parkway
To reach Springfield for the exploration, Lane Transit's Emerald Express, the EmX, was convenient - running every quarter hour on a Sunday!

EmX lanes in median on Franklin Boulevard near UO
The Bus Rapid Transit system mostly uses dedicated right-of-way. On several stretches there were concrete tire tracks - not a full roadway - a little like an old-school driveway, set in the median, fully separated from the auto travel lanes.

Eugene and Springfield, 1910 (USGS)
On Pioneer Parkway in Springfield, there was an old rail line, the Woodburn-Springfield Branch of the Southern Pacific, whose right-of-way had already furnished a bike path and some of whose surplus was available for the bus. The space on Franklin might also have been an old spur line.

The EmX system has been going for almost a decade now, so maybe you will have used it and know all about it already. It uses longer articulated buses and on a Sunday they were well used, though not completely full. (More history on it here at wikipedia.)

Low-Income Housing

Just a couple of blocks from the downtown Springfield transit center is the Royal Building, completed in 2007. It is a project of St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County and offers 33 one-bedroom apartments for those making 50% or less of area median income. It also has 4500 square foot of commercial ground floor space.

St. Vincent's Royal Building
in Springfield, near transit, with ground floor retail
So, maybe it's a dud, but being in an increasingly walkable downtown, very close to a major transit station, and with retail commercial business below it, it looks like a much better model for affordable housing than the site in exile on Cordon Road and Caplinger we currently have in the works. If we are going to do things for people, we need to think more about their operational efficiencies, the experiences and needs of users, and less about the convenience of building on cheap land that is far from important things.

Architectural Style and Building Context

A couple of other architecture moments seemed worth registering.

Back in 2002 Eugene approved a new downtown fire station. Station 1 opened in 2005, and unlike the Brutalism of some of Eugene's 1970s and 1980s urban renewal projects, the station was designed in a "half-modern" or "transitional" style by Pivot Architecture.

Eugene's newish Fire Station, a half-modern style with brick
Important early half-modern works are Belluschi's Portland Art Museum and our own Capitol - think classical proportions, few ornaments, and simplified square and rectangular forms.

When we think about ways we might want our Police Station to look, this half-modern idiom offers something that looks obviously new, but does not clash with historic, streetcar era forms and styles. Some might say that it is too conservative and dull, but it does offer an idiom that bridges old and new without jarring or excess. Our City Hall's Brutalism was a more "up-to-date" style when it was conceived, but now most of us don't like it and wish it had been designed in a more dull, more conservative mode. That building probably would have remained more useful today.

A lot of the public art in Eugene is tile or metal affixed to buildings as decoration.

Art at Fire Station - "The Wind and the Waves"
The fire station had an grouping of several bronze reliefs arranged almost like windows at street level. They all had a water theme, and this seemed like an especially apt match of site and subject for an installation of public art. It wasn't too direct, not literally about fire-fighting, but yet pointed to the elemental forces involved in fire and fire-suppression. More abstractly, the blue patina is handsome against the red brick. It hits a nice spot for public art, not too demanding, not too simple and dull.

An example of clashing was the ostentatious, maybe even vulgar, form of the Lillis Center next to a group of Ellis F. Lawrence's earlier buildings in the University of Oregon's Business Complex. Yuck. Even with brick and stone flanking it, the glass atrium and giant O totally overwhelm the delicacy of the other buildings.

Lillis Business Complex is jarring architecture,
doesn't play nice with Ellis. F. Lawrence's older buildings,
Anstett Hall (Commerce Building) of 1921 on right
The brand new addition bolted onto the east side of the EMU seemed like it was much more sensitive and harmonious - even though it required demolition of the former "east addition" of 1973. (That might be something to consider in more detail in the future. On and in context with several buildings there's a pattern on campus of older brick contrasted against these huge glazed expanses, and it doesn't always work.)

Bike Lanes

Just a couple of blocks off campus, there were some more recent bike facilities of minor interest.

On Alder there was a two-way bike lane for north-south travel on the west side of campus.

Two-way bike lane on Alder at 13th
13th Street is a main axis through campus, but it is a one-way street near campus, and there is a contra-flow west-bound bike lane. At Hilyard, though, it terminates, and west-bound bike travel is redirected one block north to the 12th Street bikeway.

Contra-flow bike lane on 13th at Hilyard
The grid itself remains pretty autoist, though, so that's an example of a work-around rather than a structural adjustment.

The contra-flow facilities didn't have barriers or much in the way of separation.

In total they seem like meaningful increments, but they didn't seem to hang together as a system. They seemed more ad hoc in nature.

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