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Eugene Weekly : News : 7.3.08




Sears Pit Proposals

Projects range from student apartments to community center

by Alan Pittman

Canterbury Hotel Plan
WG Plan
Opus Plan

Five developers, including community groups, have submitted proposals to fill the eyesore Sears pit and adjacent parking lot on the half block across from the downtown library. 

The proposals to the city include a six-story student apartment building, a five-story office/apartment mix, a green housing and transportation center, a hip hotel with 105-120 rooms and a community/art/housing center. 

The City Council plans to consider the proposals at a work session Wednesday, July 16. For more details and pictures, surf to the www.eugene-or.gov/downtown or blogs.eugeneweekly.com websites.

Here’s a rundown of the pit proposals:

Opus — six-story student apartment building 

The $40-million, 200,000 square-foot Opus project has 60 parking spaces embedded on the ground floor and a coffee shop, with apartments for 472 students above. The developer says it will pay the city $482,360 for the half-block site. Opus wants the following city subsidies/actions: a 10-year property tax break, closing and selling a public alley, expedited permits, bulk leasing of 100 spaces in the Broadway Place Garage across the street, capping of permit and development fees at $100,000 and two reserved curbside spaces for ZipCars, a car sharing service.

Opus wrote that the project will “activate” the retail area downtown with new residents. The students will be “relying heavily on bicycles and busses for their daily commuting.” 

Opus said a market study it commissioned and recent news stories show high demand for student housing in the area. Opus wants to start the project this year and finish it by the spring of 2010. “The timing is critical.”

WG — five-story office/apartment mix

Local developers Wally Graff and Nathan Philips propose two floors of offices topped by three floors of apartments. The $28-million, 200,000 square-foot, mixed-use project includes 83 apartments and 65 embedded parking spaces. Pacific University, which offers teacher education in Eugene, intends to occupy a “significant portion” of the office space, according to WG.

WG wants the following subsidies from taxpayers: give the half-block to them for one dollar, parking rental agreement for Broadway Place, reduced development charges, 10-year tax break, pay for alley and any off-site improvements, consider below-market loan, consider a brownfield grant or loan, assistance with market analysis, expanded policing downtown and any potential environmental mitigation of the site. 

WG wrote the project will “enliven” the area and increase “eyes-on” security. The building includes a police kiosk, small café, wide-sidewalks, street trees and a “quasi public urban plaza” with event space towards the library. The project may offer bus passes and “could meet” LEED Silver status for green building, according to WG.

The local developers say they have backing from banks and $10 million from unnamed investors for the project. If a planned market study shows lack of demand, WG said it may take a “phased” approach, building only half of the project first.

Jim Wilcox — green housing transit center

Local resident Wilcox proposes an environmental and community-oriented “Tranovation Center.” The proposal has many green elements including: solar powered electric vehicle charging and parking; electric vehicle sales and service; a “BikeStation” with secure bike parking, repair, rentals and changing rooms; a car sharing service; a theater/community education facility; green housing; an indoor/outdoor farmers’ market; and an environmental transportation R&D center for UO and OSU engineers. The passive and active solar facility will generate as much power as it uses and offer car-free living, according to Wilcox. 

Wilcox writes his proposal “lacks many technical requirements” the city asked for. He wrote: “This will not be a simple project. It will require participation by the City of Eugene, LCC, LTD, the U of O and OSU, private investors, downtown citizens and business owners. The City can make an investment by procuring an initial fleet of electric vehicles that could be charged in this location.” 

Canterbury Group — hip hotel with 105-120 rooms 

Canterbury proposes to build a $10 million, “lifestyle” hotel for the “Aloft” unit of the large Starwood Hotels chain. The Aloft vision includes a “lobby with a lively communal setting and a bar” and a futuristic, luxury “loft-inspired design and free flowing energy.”

The proposal includes the following taxpayer subsidies: no property taxes; city help with permitting and no delays; and land subsidized so that the developer will pay only $175,000 for the half block.

Canterbury said the project will enliven the area with an architectural landmark, use green building materials, attract redevelopment and create tax revenues. 

Energy Village — community center/housing

Energy Village is a group of local progressive people proposing a community/education/art center and housing project with a broad spectrum of community-based tenants. The proposal is “exploring design concepts” including possibly: a modern art museum; rooftop gardens; public park space; education programs, youth programs; childcare; music lessons; jazz jam space; artist workshops and classrooms; and sustainable clothing workshops, classrooms and boutique. 

The Energy Village proposal states, “We are currently engaged in a capital campaign for private investment, which we then hope to match with public funds.” The proposal says it will help revive downtown with “creative class” people and provide jobs while providing “truly affordable housing,” learning opportunities and a “vibrant, inclusive” community center. The proposal “embodies the philosophy of creativity and independence that Eugene is known for and plays it forward in a way that is edgy and truly progressive.”