Monday, August 14, 2017

Eugene Parklets Show Mixed Results; New Mill Race Path Skirts Industry

Thanks to an expert guide, beyond the desolate industrial park and the new bridges to EMX on the Fern Ridge path, there were a few other things to highlight from a recent visit to Eugene.

One of them was an opportunity to see the winning parklets installed on the street.

Three of the four winning parklets in Eugene
"Vivid Summer," on the left, is full; the other two are empty
Three of them were on Broadway just west of Willamette. This was an area that used to be fully closed to auto traffic and part of the downtown pedestrian mall. SW Oregon Architect has notes on the competition and plans and on a visit to the installations.

Though empty in this image, "Vivid Summer" was sometimes full
via Southwest Oregon Architect
On his visit he lamented that
during my quick stroll-by I found all to be unoccupied, despite plenty of passersby on a busy Saturday afternoon. They appeared forlorn and all too quickly forsaken.
This was not what I saw the weekend before, or what I heard about the weekend of Sunday Streets a week prior to that. I saw and heard that one of the parklets - but not all four of them - seemed to enjoy consistent visitors. That was the "Vivid Summer" project.

It may have offered better seating, better chances to mingle and socialize, and a more dynamic set of levels.

In any case, of the four it seemed to be the clear winner, and it will be interesting to see how the City of Eugene formally evaluates it, hopefully having assessed it over a much greater time interval, and perhaps finding reason to make it, or a variation on it, a more permanent installation.

The other three - one of them hampered by an immediately adjacent storage pod - did not seem to be able to keep people, and it seems likely that one or more design elements in each would need to be altered for greater success. Maybe there are things to learn from them for a subsequent iteration.

One thing seems clear: Just the mere existence of any parklet, of whatever design, is no guarantee of success. Demand for the extra sidewalk space was not that overwhelming, and the right design is necessary for persistent visitors once the novelty has worn off.

(If I learn of a City of Eugene evaluation, I will update this post with a link and any relevant comments.)

Basically that's 17 miles of separated path from west to east
Except for short bits in downtown Eugene and in downtown Springfield, there is a separated path for nearly the whole width of the Eugene-Springfield metro area. How wonderful is that!!!

In January, the City of Springfield opened the newest segment.

Springfield's new Mill Race path runs along industry
(one of the hazy days, alas)
Springfield's Mill Race Path goes around the north and east side of a small butte to connect with the path between Dorris Ranch and Clearwater Park on the Middle Fork of the Willamette River, along the west and south site of the butte.

The Mill Race path runs right along a working plywood mill, and then connects to the Booth Kelly Center, the vestige of an important lumber company, and which seems to be a mixed-use project in development (see a maker space concept here, notes on a Sustainable Cities Initiative project here; the Eugene Opera also appears to have shops there).

The total path system along Amazon Creek and the Willamette River really underscores how much we missed out on Mill Creek and a connection to Keizer Rapids park.

New stormwater swales in a residential district
The City of Eugene has been rebuilding Jefferson and Washington Streets off the I-105 ramps, and the one-way couplet runs through an older, residential part of town. As part of the project, they are building modest bulb-outs on key bikeway crossings and are including stormwater bioswales, at this intersection on all four corners.

I had not previously seen these in residential neighborhoods, so that was pretty cool.

(Though even with the curb extensions, the one-way traffic on Jefferson and Washington is quite zoomy, and drivers generally unwilling to observe our crosswalk laws for people on foot.)

The brooding ramp spaghetti on 5th Ave
for I-105 in downtown Eugene over the park
Finally, those I-105 ramps between 7th Avenue and 1st Avenue give some idea of what the ramps for Marine Drive going through Wallace Marine Park might be like. This is dead space in Eugene, needles and petty crime are a problem, and the urban design here is a huge ingredient all that. It's a blighty ornamental emptiness.


Anonymous said...

That's interesting about the parklets.

In your list of "missed opportunities" in Salem, you should also include rails-to-trails misses on the Geer and the Salem, Falls City, and Western lines. Those could have made for a very similar east-west path connection across the full width of the Salem urban area.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

You're quite right about the rail lines! Thanks.

AIA Southwestern Oregon has a nice picture of folks eating lunch in "Vivid Summer" and also notes that "Vivid Summer" won the Mayor's Choice Award.

(They also have construction pix if you poke around their FB more.)