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Expanding the Dialogue

We can expect more out of Kesey Square
Joshua Purvis
Joshua Purvis

As programmer of the summer film screenings and the All Hallows’ Eugene downtown Halloween event that attract “students, families, Eugeneans of all stripes” (“A Sense of Place” cover story, 11/19), I do not endorse or support any anti-development effort toward Kesey Square. Broadway Plaza is not a well-utilized public space. Instead, it is a remnant of failed urban planning whose greatest defenders lack the imagination and determination to champion a better-conceived common area for political and cultural activity. 

The proposal by John Rowell, Greg Brokaw, Kazem Oveissi, Mark Miksis, Hugh Prichard and Harris Hoffman to build apartments and ground floor retail on Broadway Plaza has merit and deserves unbiased consideration, as does the plan submitted by Ali Emami to expand upon the current design and “encourage traffic through the square.” Both proposals will require transparent and careful review, as Rowell, Brokaw, Oveissi and Emami are all downtown business owners whose investments in the area’s redevelopment go beyond civic pride.

To their credit, Rowell, Oveissi, Miksis and team organized a public forum and shared design plans with various development committees to earn community support for their proposal. Emami, though, has yet to circulate a thorough overview of his plan to the numerous stakeholder groups steering downtown’s revitalization efforts, including the Downtown Eugene Merchants (DEM), Downtown Eugene Economic Development (DEED) and Downtown Eugene, Incorporated (DEI). If he truly wishes to open up the walls flanking Kesey Square to activate the space, I hope he also will cultivate relationships with his neighbors to help infuse the surrounding area with commercial and community activity. 

Alex Cipolle has opened a door for the Eugene Weekly’s editorial team to participate in a proactive conversation on how best to sustain downtown’s current momentum. There is an opportunity for Editor Ted Taylor, Associate Editor Camilla Mortensen and others at the Weekly to join representatives of DEM, DEED, DEI, Downtown Neighborhood Association, Lane Community College, Technology Association of Oregon, Lane Workforce Partnership and the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce to discuss not only how to redevelop Kesey Square, but also how to increase living-wage jobs, how to increase funding and support for the arts, how to improve access to social services for those in need and how to further stimulate innovation and investment in our downtown. 

I applaud the Weekly’s efforts to encourage its readership to participate in the well-attended Downtown Solutions Forum organized by the mayor and city staff to generate ideas for improving our public spaces. With the increasing level of commercial and cultural activity regularly attracting students, shoppers, designers, merchants, artists, makers, professors, families and travelers downtown, it was inspiring to see representatives from neighborhood restaurants, arts and culture venues, shops, offices, schools, residences and social services engage in a proactive conversation about encouraging natural surveillance, civic engagement and community cohesion. 

For a city that prides itself on civic responsibility and virtue, we should expect more out of a political, social and cultural arena than Kesey Square. Allowing Broadway Plaza to remain a lackadaisical reminder of a generation in its twilight is not only unacceptable, it’s irresponsible. Our youth deserve better examples of a public sphere that actually, and not idealistically, supports the greater good.