Eugene Weekly : Design Matters : 3.19.09

Police Site Options
Advice on putting the police in their place 
by Jerry Diethelm 

Let’s say you wanted to site a new police building downtown, and even though voters had been strongly against the project in two separate elections, you still believed that it was past time to resolve the problem.

 Let’s say you thought this was a good time to go ahead and build a new building downtown and that you wanted to keep the police operation in the downtown area, even though it meant having to figure out how to include 90 to 100 cars.

 Let’s say you had a building reserve of $26 million and you thought you could build a bare bones beginning of what was needed for $16 million with enough left over to take care of the earthquake and other basic needs of the present City Hall.

And let’s say you were looking for the best site for this new facility, hoping to find that the best or at least a decent fit would be on existing city-owned land such as the triangle east of the new U.S. Courthouse or the parking lot across 8th Avenue from City Hall.

I share the first of these views and I think we should fix City Hall. A downtown the size of Eugene’s deserves to have an important set of public buildings (and open spaces) ­ including a new central police station, an art museum, a natural history museum, an indoor Farmers Market, a new 300 seat theater and a better DIVA ­ jewels for the civic crown.

Some of us also believe that we’ll need a 21st century trolley on Willamette that travels down 5th Avenue to the new downtown riverfront in order to tie it all together.

 The point is that each of these public buildings is an opportunity to add centers of lasting quality to Eugene’s downtown. We’ve been able to do just that with the new library, fire station and Hult Center. Do we now have enough of a budget to do justice to a new police station? 

And is the time ripe politically? No. I think the leadership of the police association will have to agree to attend charm school before Eugeneans will ever support a new police project.

Economically, the money might be better held in reserve to protect existing jobs and social services during the hard times ahead. Or, how about seriously considering an investment of city money in a new PV plant on the Hynix site? We could walk the PV arrays built there directly over to the new EWEB buildings and save a lot of carbon in the process.

There are serious problems with using both the triangle and 8th Avenue sites. Storing 90 cars with a building on 8th gets in the way of plans for a “Great Street” pedestrian connection to the riverfront. It just creates another dead civic block full of sleeping cars after everyone goes home at 5 pm. 

Any building on the city’s triangle site is destined to become an important partner to our new courthouse, so we won’t want some cheap police box there that Judge Hogan has to cringe at from his corner office. This triangle is also a key to riverfront access and development because of the way the railroad pinches the eastern end of the downtown riverfront. Developing this site in isolation would rob it of its larger potential to play an important role in a courthouse/riverfront plan that unites both sides of the railroad corridor.

 My first choice is still adding new layers of parking to the county garage on 6th and buying or leasing the state office building next door — the one being remodeled right now — as a temporary police station until the time is ripe for creative destruction and rebuilding.

 I’d also like to see us consider an extra layer of parking on that same county garage in order to free the North Park Block from its “butterfly bondage.” 

A longer version of Jerry Diethelm’s column including a map of the triangle site can be found on his website Look for “Eugene Weekly Articles” at the top of the website.