EW asked an assortment of community and socially involved folks to please tell us what they would dream of for Eugene. As we head into the New Year, what do people think we as a community should change, improve, build or renovate in our built and social environment?
We asked for two dreams per person, but of course you can’t control dreams, so some people had many more ideas than two. And while we tried to categorize them, you can’t really put dreams in logical boxes either. So just enjoy this mélange of wishes for our city. Stay tuned for part two next week.
Jud Turner, sculptor
I would like to see giant metal slides installed downtown, to connect buildings and businesses, and add an increased element of excitement and danger to the Eugene downtown experience. If you thought the street kids at Kesey Square were intimidating, hop onto the new slide that connects the top of the Hilton to Soubise restaurant’s front door! No chance for those street-level people to bother you now, and you’ll get from point to point faster than you ever wanted to. This would be a green, sustainable solution to increased traffic downtown (parcades would be central hubs with slides jutting out in all directions), and a hell of a lot of fun. It would be a tourist destination, and a whole new cottage industry of personal injury lawyers would spawn, adding economic benefits to the community. And the next time it snows 8 inches, we can use the slides as Eugene’s first luge track! Total win for Eugene!
I also dream for Eugene to have a number of art galleries that are thriving businesses and which bring new cultural influences to our little town. As a lifelong Eugene resident and professional artist, it’s sad that Eugene doesn’t seem to be able to sustain art galleries. I have never figured this out — Eugene has some incredible artists, passionate advocates and is full of art lovers, yet few galleries seem to be able to stay in business for more than a year or two. We’ve lost some fine spaces to show art over the years (Opus galleries, Fenario) and I have great admiration for those that have stuck it out (Karin Clarke Gallery, The Gallery at the Watershed). It really comes down to the financial piece though — for galleries to remain in business, people have to buy art, and people here are usually reluctant to spend more than $100 on original art work (there are exceptions, of course, but exceptions don’t pay rent and staff salaries.) I know the weak economy can affect sales of art, but I sell sculpture all over the U.S., and in towns similar to Eugene (and even some smaller towns, like Astoria, Ore.), residents are buying art with higher price points and more frequency than we do here. The result is that people who want to be professional artists will leave Eugene for larger towns like Portland, and we will lose visionaries that we need to continue to be a vibrant arts town.
Anna Grace, theater critic and teacher
I dream of an elegant foot-and-bike bridge that spans from the Ferry Street Bridge to the quiet little park behind Oakway Center. I see this bridge as bustling, but not crowded, peopled with low-key bike commuters, ladies walking to Oakway to meet friends for lunch, a few members of the Sheldon cross country team getting in a hill workout.
As it is, anyone wishing to get from the river bike path to Oakway Center and beyond must pass through a rage of traffic. There are three places where cars make blind, right-hand turns nearly crushing me each morning on my way to work and each evening as I return home. I don’t blame them. When I am trapped in my car, I just want to get where I’m going as quickly as possible. If I drove regularly, I’m sure I’d have flattened a dozen people by now, which is why I choose to ride my bike.
I imagine this bridge soaring up over the traffic lights, making Slocum and the Subaru dealership look like Monopoly real estate in the distance below. I would peddle up into the sky like Elliot and E.T. The aggressive drivers stopped at yet another light could honk and swear and turn right across bike lanes until their hearts were content. Up on the bridge, the ladies and the runners and the bikers would look down at the traffic below, smiling dreamily as we all think, “Suckers.”
I dream of a living wage paid to those who create good theater in our town.
As it is, some of our most talented theater artists toil away for nothing more than the satisfaction of creation. I am constantly impressed that these people have jobs, support families and then drag themselves out to a rehearsal in the evening. There are a few theaters in town that pay as much as they are able, but in my dreams our support for the theater creates real, paying work for actors, directors and designers.
When artists aren’t paid, it rarifies art. Art becomes a hobby, or an indulgence of the wealthy. We are fortunate to live in a town where people feel the pull of the theater so strongly they are willing to donate their time for free, but imagine what people could produce if they didn’t have to slug it out at a day job? In Eugene, we financially support athletes, writers and scholars because we value their work. How about some cash to support an up-and-coming director or seasoned actress?
You, gentle reader, can make my dream come true. Attend the theater, any theater. Buy one ticket, buy two, subscribe for a year, encourage the businesses you frequent to sponsor a show. I may be 103 by the time we have a healthy number of professional theater artists in town, but we can do it. Let’s give these artists the living they deserve.
Amelia Kimball, stylist and booker for Behavior Castle
My dream for Eugene is increased participation from everyone in the local music scene. Instead of talking about things not happening, I’d love to see more people walking the walk: showing up to local musicians’ shows, spending a few dollars on admission instead of on another beer, telling their friends when great music is coming through town before the show, not after. I’d love to see more safe, supportive all-ages venues so EVERYONE can have fun together. I want more people to start bands and I want our amazing community to keep growing and put Eugene on the music map, where it belongs.
I would also love a 24-hour diner in the downtown area.
Michael Roderick, teacher and lead singer,
Mood Area 52
I would like to have a hardware store downtown. I would like to be able to ride my bicycle downtown and buy a hammer.
I would like the Eugene community to fund educational programs for the applied arts. Creating a labor force capable of intelligent manufacturing is a reasonable gamble for future working-class jobs. Kids also learn more quickly when they are making something. This also creates a future market for the downtown hardware store.
Debbie Williamson, arts advocate and
old SLUG Queen
As a downtown resident, my dream for Eugene would be to have continued urban growth in our city’s core. To work, play and shop in my neighborhood is something that a decade ago didn’t seem likely but now I’m proud to say I live in the “theater district” with the recent additions of Oregon Contemporary Theatre and Bijou Metro.
Downtown Eugene is where little food carts become grown-up restaurants, as demonstrated by two of my favorites, Party Downtown and Red Wagon Creamery, where you can find one-of-kind décor for your home at Cone Ball or Urban Lumber and even sample a bit of Portland at Voodoo Doughnuts or Sizzle Pie. First Friday ArtWalk and Summer in the City keep the streets bustling with events and if something doesn’t mesh with your schedule, stop by the library to grab a book. And with dedicated local merchants at the Eugene Backyard Farmer, Keystone Café, Holiday Market and many, many others, you can even survive SNOWPOCALYSPE! Ah, snow — the best advertisement for shopping local. In five years, I’d like to see every block filled with businesses — a small hardware store, a drugstore, more galleries, more, more, MORE!
My second dream for Eugene is peace. Sure, I sound like a beauty queen contestant, but I really mean it. I love our little town where opinions run as strong as the Willamette but for the most part, where we love our neighbors, smile when we meet a stranger, and make certain that visitors understand one-way streets really aren’t that confusing.
Alex Notman, EW arts editor (staff pick)
My dream is for a locally owned, late-night bookstore-coffee shop hybrid to open downtown. Just imagine the culture waiting to be brewed. When I first came here as a grad student, I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a bookstore open past 7 pm (besides Barnes & Noble — it closes at 10 pm). The same goes for coffee shops — the few that are open after 7 pm, like Wandering Goat, have fairly limited space. For students, for writers, for social gatherings, for people who want more options then just the bar scene after sunset and before midnight, this could become a great community gathering space. And if I’m really going pie in the sky, how about adding a record section and maybe a small stage for local bands? And sure, throw a couple local brews on tap. Some of my fondest memories of Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland are the late nights spent in their beloved bookstores — Magers & Quinn, Elliot Bay Book Co., Powell’s — talking to strangers about good reads over a good brew. Have you seen Seattle’s Elliot Bay Book Co. late on a Saturday night? It’s just as hopping as the bars in the surrounding Capitol Hill neighborhood. Don’t think it can work in Eugene? Just look at Townshend’s Tea downtown. The teahouse is open to 10 pm and it’s always packed — and they serve tea.
Artist lofts downtown modeled after Everett Station Lofts in Portland’s Old Town. Sixteen affordable, storefront loft combined living and studio spaces are reserved specifically for artists under the condition that the artist’s studio is open to the public during regular business hours and that artists participate in at least nine art walks a year. That’s sounds like a symbiotic relationship if I’ve ever heard of one. Perhaps Eugene cannot support 16 artist lofts downtown, but how about eight, or five or even two? All I know is that come First Thursday Artwalk in Old Town, Everett Street is a magical place to be.
Authentic New York-style bagels. Crispy on the outside (a shiny crust, like a pretzel, is a must) and chewy on the inside … nom nom nom.
Medium Troy, bohemian dub band
We’d like to see Eugene fulfill its plan to be the “greatest city for the arts and outdoors.” This city has an amazing arts community from all different backgrounds and disciplines. We believe through collaboration and wise use of public spaces Eugene really could be the greatest city for the arts in our area.
We’d like to see the Cuthbert Amphitheater and Hult Center host large arts events that bring local artists together to collaborate on events that are much greater then the sum of their parts. These are amazing local venues and without backing from the city these venues are out of the financial scope of most local artists. The city has a lot of great projects underway like (sub)Urban Projections and we’d like to see an expansion of these types of projects if the city plans on living up to its branding initiative.
Sally Sheklow, EW columnist
Two things I’d like to see happen in Eugene: WYMPROV! on the cover of EW at long last and a year-round public market that’s really public and community based with permanent, weather-protected, secure and affordable booth space for farmers, fishers, bakers, food vendors, craftspeople, artists, buskers — a Eugene-scale Pike Place.
Rachael McDonald, KLCC Morning Edition host
I wish more people would open more cool businesses and employ more people locally. Not necessarily breweries, wineries and restaurants, they’re wonderful … and plentiful. So, more local, living-wage jobs.
Kitty Piercy, mayor of Eugene
Eugene is a city of strong character and extraordinary activism, focused on building on strengths so that all live their highest and best lives. It’s a special place that’s on the cutting edge of livability, sustainable economic opportunity and social justice. It’s a place where people appreciate each other, laugh, encourage each other and work together to meet challenges. It’s a true, well-connected community that our children take pride in and stay to raise their own families.
Pete Kerns, chief, Eugene Police Department
In our future, Eugene will be known as the city where devoted people strive purposefully to build a place where human dignity and prosperity thrive, where safety and health continuously improve.
Our downtown will be an exciting technology district with even more colorful retail, fascinating restaurants, vibrant living and an electric energy of innovation and invention. Our neighborhoods will retain or establish their own unique character. Families in Eugene will enjoy challenging and nurturing lives and know that their children’s education, activities and community will provide for rewarding and fulfilling futures.
Brandy Todd (Professor Doctor Mildred Slugwak Dresselhaus), raining SLUG Queen
Eugene has much to recommend it, beautiful, quirky, quintessentially Pacific Northwest, and ahead of its time — 30 years and we’re still waiting for the rest of the world to recognize the beauty and majesty of the gastropod — but there is always room for improvement. My top two challenges for Eugene are these:
Diversify — It’s nice to live in a community where so many people look and think like me, but I do bore easily. Queens need stimulation. Bring on the diversity! The Global Female Science Domination Initiative and the Army of Girl Scientists are both equal opportunity mad science organizations, and we’re always looking for a few good maniacs.
Awnings, Dahling — Yes, yes, I know Oregonians don’t melt in the rain, but many of my queenly accoutrements do get soggy. Sometimes it’s nice to have the option of a dry space outside SS;-) (that’s the official emoticon for a winking slug).
Laura Illig, Corinthian Consulting, 4J School Board
Here in Oregon, we have it all — talent, resources, beauty. Almost all of our problems are in our heads. Here are the two things I would most like to see happen in Eugene:
We need to develop a strategy. That means thinking beyond today’s problems and more about tomorrow’s opportunities. It means spending less ink fretting over five blocks of Willamette Street and more ink planning for our long-term sustainable future — including transportation needs, green space, economic development and especially education. Right now, we have too many overlapping commissions and documents but not a single uniting vision for who we are and where we want to go as a community.
We need to update our mindset. Eugeneans should continue to drink from the cup of idealism, because from this cup come all things aspirational and visionary. However, we need to follow that with a chaser of cold, bracing reality. We can’t have services that we’re not willing to pay for. Not all change is bad, and neither is competition. Excellence is something to aspire to, not an automatic indication of unfairness or inequality. Eugene should not fear the 21st century. Oregon embodies the values this nation most needs to tackle what’s ahead. Our state and our nation need Eugene to lead, not follow.
Kim Still, manager of Saturday Market promotions and advertising
I would love to see Eugene lead the way nationally by restoring all the arts as a core component of basic education in all schools at all grade levels. Even a basic level of experience with music, fine arts and dance broadens perspectives and gives tools for expression that can bring beauty and balance to our own lives and to those around us. We are fortunate in Eugene to have many excellent freelance teachers who give lessons, but not everyone has the resources to provide this for their kids.
I envision a day when, as a key element of Eugene’s vibrant central neighborhood, the “Butterfly” Parking Lot at 8th & Oak is transformed into a third Park Block. This block has the infrastructure the farmers market needs to grow and thrive. It also includes a building that houses storage for market equipment, a rentable commercial kitchen for food processing, public restrooms and flexible meeting/small event space with a low rental fee for folks to use for gatherings of all kinds.
I believe both of these things are possible!!
Aaron Ragan-Fore, writer and director of communications, UO School of Music and Dance
I would love to see a Eugene whose citizens use their hometown university as a resource even more than they do already. The UO offers so much more than football, from performing arts and academic lectures to two top-notch museums, all at low or no cost to community participants. Often there are multiple events open to the public scheduled for each and every day, listed online at calendar.uoregon.edu.
Ruth Duemler, health care advocate
I would like to first see a budget change for more going to human services, education and the library. I’ll never forget living next to the richest per capita town and having them cut the library hours! Where are our priorities?
In five years, I would like to have health care for all be a human right, have education a national priority with teachers paid twice what they are paid today and have 30-hour workweeks so everyone could find a job! In 20 years I hope our health research would have ended cancer and other tragic diseases.
Cynthia Pappas, CEO, Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon
That young people have access to comprehensive sex education, giving them tools to build healthy relationships throughout their lives.
That we all contribute to a culture of respect that allows people to dream big, be treated with dignity, access the healthcare they need and be empowered to reach their full potential.
Dan Bryant, pastor, First Christian Church
During the recent cold snap the Egan Warming Center set a new record: over 400 people given emergency shelter on bitterly cold nights. This means we are now providing temporary shelter, mostly in church fellowship halls designed for other purposes, that equals that of the Eugene Mission. This is not a healthy situation for our community, let alone for those 400-plus individuals who have no other shelter on all the other nights of the year Egan is not open.
Our most immediate need over the next five years is to develop a diversified shelter system that uses a wide variety of models to address the different needs of the houseless. These include such strategies as a legal place for people to camp, an “Opportunity Village” for 30 to 40 people in every ward of the city, a “wet housing” shelter for those with severe addiction issues, a three- to four-fold increase in the number of car camping locations and a like increase in housing programs for those who have severe mental health issues.
Providing shelter, however, does not address the root problem of homelessness. Perhaps the greatest change needed in the long run is a shift from blaming the poor for being out of work or unable to work to blaming the system which provides too few opportunities for people to make it on their own. Within 20 years, we should change our systems that create unhealthy dependencies on charity and replace them with systems based on economic justice that make charity unnecessary. This would include things like an economy that supports living-wage jobs for the vast majority, true universal health coverage, teacher-to-student ratios that truly enable all students to learn and effective government that maximizes public resources for the maximum public benefit.
Alley Valkyrie, homeless advocate, Nightingale Public Advocacy Collective
I would like Eugene to decide what it actually wants to be. This is a town that suffers from quite the identity conflict. Are we a big city that wants to attract big money and tourism? Because if we are, we have to accept the big-city issues that come with that terrain and stop acting like reactionary provincialists when it comes to issues like the homeless. Or are we a small, little college town? Which is it? Are we a human rights city? Or do we let people die on the streets for lack of shelter as houses sit empty nearby? We can’t be both. And trying to be both has failed.
Lauren Regan, attorney, Civil Liberties Defense Center
I would like to see Eugene create a cooperative that incorporates housing and gainful employment for at-risk homeless community members that have mental health challenges that prevent them from engaging in mainstream employment. The idea would be that folks who have mental illness (and/or are self-medicating with drugs and alcohol) would be provided a small apartment in exchange for performing work for the cooperative based upon their abilities — whether that is cooking the co-op’s meals, or providing labor for public works projects — kind of like the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s and ’40s. Participants would also have voluntary access to services.
This idea is based upon the work of LAMP Community, a Los Angeles based nonprofit located in Skid Row that seeks to permanently end homelessness, improve health and build self-sufficiency among men and women living with severe mental illness. It developed the Housing First model.
From Wikipedia: “It offers immediate access to affordable, safe and permanent housing without requiring sobriety or participation in treatment. Once settled in their home, new tenants are surrounded with customized services such as mental health treatment, drug recovery, healthcare, budgeting, visual performing arts, job opportunities and other supports to help them achieve their goals and become part of their community.”
Mark Harris, LCC instructor and EW columnist
I’m a co-chair of the Gang Prevention Task Force. A Eugene police officer made a statement to the effect that “race is the problem,” i.e., the main gang problem is white gangs, whether working an urban gang meme, a prison street gang meme or a white supremacist meme. Supremacists are organizing, like their Klan predecessors here did early and throughout Eugene’s 20th century.
In the wake of Madiba’s crossing, and mindful of the parallel histories of the U.S., Oregon and South Africa I would like to see two things:
A Eugene/Springfield/Lane County Truth and Reconciliation Commission, like the one that happened in South Africa, to reveal and come clean about the history, recent and present policies and realities around race and other intersectional forms of patterned discrimination.
The K-16 schools and the community become intentionally better adept at treating and intervening, using education as a social service modality to prevent gang, addiction and mental health problems, healing from trauma, homelessness, and to empower children, families and individuals to better their circumstances.
Jennifer Sparklebritches, comedian
I want to see Civic Stadium turned into a beautiful space that serves families, teens and senior citizens in our community. This vision includes a gymnasium, used as an indoor park in the day and a teen center at night during the cold months. I want several classroom/meeting spaces and a small commercial kitchen for use by individuals and area nonprofits. The old ball field would include a community garden — half veggies, half flowers — designed by local landscape architects to accommodate weddings and other events that would provide an income stream to help maintain the facility. We need more community connections and Civic Stadium is the perfect place to make this happen!
Cary Thompson, Helios Network
I would like to see our city value its history and have Civic Stadium revamped for athletic leagues and events, under the auspices of the “Save Civic Stadium” committee. Eugene’s 4J school district owns the property for this very purpose. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places and should be preserved.
I would like to see the abandoned LCC building on Willamette and 11th remodeled into a center for youth services, a shelter for the homeless and single-room-occupancy housing. There are far too few social services in downtown Eugene.
Constance van Flandern, old SLUG Queen
Eugene takes pride in its sometime slogan “the world’s greatest city for arts and outdoors.” Sure, when you say it out loud at a party you might get a few snorts of disbelief — and maybe a few of those snorts have come from me in the past — but no more! I’ve come around. Why shouldn’t we have that slogan? It suits our style to dream big and fill the pits later. “The world’s greatest city for athletes” could have been a contender though. If you are a participant or spectator of football, basketball, track and field, gymnastics, golf, soccer, BMX biking or even extreme skating, Eugene has you covered in style. But I have a vision to take that faux city slogan to the next level: Think big ice.
I would love to see 4J sell the Civic Stadium property to private investors interested in building a visionary sports complex and ice rink. In my imagination this place is gorgeous, an architectural marvel attracting visitors from all over the Northwest. A world-class ice facility to replace the one limping along at the County Fairgrounds, and include the Eugene Generals, UO Ducks Hockey Team, The ICHL (Local Hockey League) and LAHA (Lane Amateur Youth Hockey Association), figure skating training and competitions, recreational skaters and, of course, ICE Shows!
It could include a state-of-the-art rock climbing wall, indoor floating running track above the rink, weight and workout rooms for athletes, a pool, indoor basketball and volleyball court, indoor play park for toddlers, and viewing deck to the rink with a stunning floor to ceiling locally quarried stone fireplace, a coffee shop and juice bar, a few desk stations with USB ports and free Wi-Fi all around.
Kelsey Moore, Arriving by Bike
I would like to see the city of Eugene step into a national leadership role in bike policy and infrastructure creation. I would also love to see Eugene recognize our amazing number of bicycle-friendly businesses and add to them!
Why? Because I want our city to be the best it can be. All the finest cities to live and work in are also fun places to walk and bike; let’s create the infrastructure, policies and recognition to make it happen here!
What should Eugene be like in five years? Like Portland! With a “complete streets” policy, completed and expanded bike lanes and routes and recognition of our bike-friendly businesses.
In 20 years? Like Copenhagen? Amsterdam? Eugene should be so bike-friendly that families, young professionals, happening employers and tourists want to come to Eugene to live and bike! We should institute a complete streets policy that helps ensure that our planners and engineers consistently design and operate the roadway with all users in mind. We should also complete and expand our existing bike lanes and routes, including the routes to downtown and the missing bike lanes on South Willamette Street from 24th to 29th.
Pete Sorenson, Lane County Commissioner
Eugene has a lot of really talented bright people who aren’t being paid enough for the work they are doing or would like to be doing. This includes almost everyone. So, higher wages and benefits would help a lot of people.
Our community needs to respond in a significant way to the environmental crisis staring us in the face — the bees are dying, climate change is real and must be addressed, our forests should be valued to clean the air and mitigate the impacts of climate change, our fish (whether lake, stream, river or ocean) are the aquatic canaries that need protection, and unregulated genetically modified food further threatens our environment.
Camilla Mortensen, EW associate editor and reporter (staff pick)
I would like to see Eugene fully embracing its need for clean water and protecting our rivers through town and out of town both in deed and in legal policy. I would like to see Eugene continue to improve in how we take care of those who are helpless, homeless or in need. I would like to see Lane County (because I’m going a little broader here) be more transparent and accountable in its governance — it would make my job a little easier and the environment and politics a lot better. Also a downtown water park that doubles as a skating rink in the winter would be awesome.
Amy Schneider, EW calendar editor and reporter (staff pick)
On a day trip to Portland earlier this year, I turned a corner and stumbled on Tanner Springs Park, a miniature wetlands about the size of a city block nestled in the Pearl District. An incredible pocket of nature plunked down amidst pavement and buildings, the park featured tasteful art made from old railroad tracks, a boardwalk and a small pathway that wound its way through native plants. To top it all off, a wild great blue heron had taken up residence there, gently preening as Portlanders snapped pictures from the boardwalk and admired the painted turtle that swam freely in the pond.
I’d love to see this kind of natural reconstruction in an urban area of Eugene. What did our valley look like before we covered it up with concrete? Let’s give a city block back to nature and see if we can attract a great blue heron or two of our own.
Betty Taylor, Eugene city councilor
The Amazon Headwaters should be protected in its natural state — for recreation, for wildlife protection, for protection of our water and air, for its accessibility by foot, bicycle and bus. Kesey Square should have substantial, attractive tables, movable chairs, a small stage, one attractive kiosk (selling coffee, hot chocolate and hot cider) with school groups (and other local music groups) invited to perform in the evenings.
Eugene should be a compact, attractive, friendly city, surrounded by a green belt — with protected forests and farms nearby. There should be pedestrian paths everywhere, off-street bike paths and secure parking places for bikes. Local businesses should be encouraged by government and patronized by residents.
I hope for the elimination of tax exemptions and for a new, equitable source of revenue to support city services.
Shannon Finnell, EW features editor and reporter (staff pick)
Good infill: Sometimes it feels like nobody wants Eugene to change at all, but we’ve seen beautiful, dense urban areas in Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. Infill and densification don’t have to mean destroying neighborhoods or creating a butt-ugly cityscape. Eugene can do it.
Traffic signals that feel your bike: Loop detectors embedded in the pavement know when cyclists interrupt the electromagnetic current, and the lights turn green. Cyclists don’t have to punch buttons in right turn lanes or, ideally, wait 100 years for a go-signal (we’re looking at you, 6th & Monroe). Check out the loop detector installed on Blair this summer and feel the dream coming alive.
Light rail from LA to Seattle: Connecting Eugene to the whole West Coast via light rail may seem like a far-off fantasy, but the Oregon Passenger Rail project is already studying options between Portland and Eugene. Let’s dream big, and let’s dream far.
Citywide Wi-Fi: Access to information is the closest thing we’ve got to a great equalizer. We dream of a Eugene that does its best to ensure the ability to communicate with loved ones, apply for jobs, learn about faraway places and educate ourselves enough to improve our lives. Isn’t the internet amazing?
Rafael Aldave, retired attorney, author of EW’s ‘Lighten Up’
The main thing I would like to see happen in Eugene in the future is to have my name still in the phone book.