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Eugene Weekly : Design Matters : 12.27.07




The New Story

Our destiny whispers in our ears

BY JERRY DIETHELM

I've written on several occasions that the old story of downtown has to die before a new story can begin. But that's probably wrong. Stories, like eras, always overlap. They slide easily over one another like slippery fish. Before long, though, the top tale fades and is replaced by another. But downtown's story sits within the larger tale of metropolitan Eugene which continues to evolve in unpredictable ways. But no, that's wrong too. Listen to the oracular winds and you will hear tomorrow's headlines announcing what's to come.

It will yet come to pass that:

1. PETA will finally force the Eugene City Hall to take off its "fir coat," letting in new light on the selective use of the earthquake code to tear down buildings you don't like.

2. The mayor and six members of the City Council will take up wearing hearing aids.

3. The new City Manager will have a controlling interest in a large broom factory and hire former City Manager Vicki Elmer to help with the cleaning.

4. Outside consultants will no longer be brought in and paid enormous sums to advise us where to eat and what to have for dinner. A transportation consultant from Florida, however, will tell us how to get from here to there.

5. In the new year Newman's Fish will move to West Broadway and add a "Hugh n' Chips Special" to its popular take-out menu.

6. The last investigative reporter in Lane County will win the coveted Zagorin Prize for uncovering the secret scandal of how our North Park Block was illegally and improperly turned into a parking garage. Advanced warning to younger readers: This is a sordid, lurid, fascinating, dirty mess. Don't watch.

7. The latest fads in planning will turn out to be the latest fads in planning. This realization will lead us to better rehearse and tease out the sometimes-unwanted consequences of our planning modes and codes. Instead of form-based codes, we'll make them Informed-based Codes.

8. B&B will one again become a delicious aperitif instead of the wrath of the right or a laxative for the left.

9. John Musumeci will publicly and graciously apologize to Councilor Bonny Bettman and hire her as his personal financial consultant.

10. Mayor Kitty will give Arlie and Co. the recognition it deserves for having created Crescent Village, our first major nodal development.

11. Councilor Betty Taylor will win re-election in a landslide when her opponent's relative youth, inexperience and unwillingness to take a stand on free parking downtown become issues.

12. Commissioner Rob Handy will turn out to be.

13. "The Market," cornered, will finally admit it does not know what to do about everything, especially those things that matter most to our post-consumer humanity.

14. The musical, Who Butters My Bread, His Song I Sing, featuring the Chamber Singers, will open at the new West Broadway Theater in Eugene.

15. The new park across from the Eugene Public Library will feature pleasure boating, urban fishing and rafting on Sears Lake.

16. Building out and not up will continue to appeal to a housing industry that remains saddled with a one-trick, one-story, ranch-house pony with a suburban spread.

17. The now known flaws of tax-increment financing will be taken up by the state Legislature, which will be unable to tax itself to fully understand it. Albert Einstein once said, "Only ten people in the world really understand tax-increment financing, and I'm not one of them."

18. Neighborhoods will all extol the benefits to the community of increased urban densities in other neighborhoods.

19. The EmX extension to West Eugene will, after much debate, decide against the West 11th, Amazon, and 6th-7th alternate routes and choose the quantum option, leaping from downtown to Veneta without ever having disturbed (or served) anyone or anything in between. There will be no thought of ever connecting to the airport, since only the people who can't afford to drive to Portland would ever take it.

20. Shelley Poticha's wonderful book on trolleys will be chosen for "Reading in the Rain" and usher in the creation of a Willamette Street High Density Transportation Corridor and Return to the River. Her father will sell his Porsche and ride that trolley.

21. Civic Stadium will be sensitively restored using funds generously provided by The Steroid Foundation.

22. The Eugene Millrace will become a model urban watershed and lead us back to the Willamette Riverfront, causing Charlie Porter to rise from the dead to say, "I told you so," and impeach the Supreme Court and the Present Occupant while he's still up and at it.

23. Skidoo! The Willamette River will speak to us again saying, "Remember, our destinies are one."

Design, they say, is about changing existing situations into preferred ones. The task now is to light up the imagination with what is genuinely preferred, believed possible and worth the effort. When that new story is adequately shared and abundantly possessed, the old unsustainable one — the one smelling like old fish — will have slipped away.

The New Story whispers in the ears that hear it coming. It sends images to the eyes that see it forming and new words to the tongues (some of them in cheeks) that seek to tell its tale.

Jerry Diethelm is a Eugene architect, landscape architect and planning and design consultant.