Frequently Asked Questions
What is the proposal?
The heart of a city should be the city at its best. Eugene showcases an awkward, dead space at the south-east corner of our main intersection at Broadway and Willamette. This space is a leftover from the failed Downtown Mall. The Mall was designed with a structure in this corner that was removed. No-one would intentionally design an urban open space like this.
We are a local group proposing to solve this urban design problem. We have a viable proposal, we are ready to move forward, and we believe this is a time to continue the momentum downtown.
Before the Mall, this was the site of a building. We are proposing to put an attractive building back, to make the corner a more vibrant and attractive place all hours of the day, throughout the year.
The idea is to take what’s working, add to it, and make it better. This is one of the busiest pedestrian corners in the city. We want to build on that energy and give you a reason to linger, meet and be part of the social and cultural richness of city life. We are proposing a double-height ground floor space that will open to the sidewalk to create an indoor-outdoor atmosphere.
And, to add increased vitality, the upper floors will support 35 – 40 urban apartments to accommodate a diversity of residents who want to live and work at the center of the city.
What is the history of the SE corner of Broadway and Willamette?
This was the site of Drug Center Building, a two story building that was demolished in the early 1970’s to make way for the Eugene Downtown Mall and the Broadway Plaza. It took the community many years to repair the problems the Mall created. The covered area that once lined the blank walls was removed. The fountain at the crossroads was removed to re-open the streets. The intersection and corner were paved with brick in an attempt to make the remnant space work. The concrete piers and brick wall and the empty corner are the only elements that remain of the Downtown Mall.
What about the Ken Kesey Sculpture?
We have worked with the Kesey family to retain the bronze sculpture and stone base at the corner of Broadway and Willamette. The sculpture is proposed to remain in the public realm, accessible and visible 24 hours a day. We are exploring ways to expand on the Kesey story—especially his literary legacy. This may be through integrated quotes on the building, interactive digital display, and integrated art.
Are we losing open space downtown?
No. In fact, over the next few years downtown will have more attractive open space.
A number of exciting downtown open space projects are underway which will enhance and expand on what we have. The new plaza at City Hall will add more than twice the space that now exists at Kesey Square. This is a new high quality space with the right orientation and design to succeed. Other projects are the re-envisioning of the Hult Center Plaza, Re-thinking the Park Blocks, the Farmers Market and the Willamette to Willamette initiative along 8th Avenue.
The inactivity of the corner on most days makes this more like Eugene’s last “pit” than a positive public open space.
What happens to the activities that occur in the square?
This project takes the positive activities that already happen and makes them more attractive to everyone. It takes the negative activities and offers an answer that is self-sustaining and proven to work.
Street-oriented activities that contribute to the “Great Commercial Street” will be much better supported with this project. This will bring positive, attractive activities all-day and into late evening. The public street will be more welcoming and safer for everyone.
Over time the city has learned that Kesey Square does not work well for programmed events. The space is too small and there is inadequate support space. Summer in the City events like dodgeball and music now often occur in the street right of way.
For civic or community gatherings–planned or spontaneous–the new plaza at city hall will be a much more attractive space for the civic-oriented activities and gatherings. It will have over twice as much space and is designed to be a real “civic heart” for everyone in Eugene.
Where are the folks who hang out in the square going to go? Are you forcing them out?
We expect the folks who hang out downtown will continue to hang out. This is not the only place to hang out, and if you are trying to stop people from hanging out, this project is not the answer.
The sidewalks in this part of downtown are wide, and are especially generous at this intersection. Our goal is to make an active, vibrant place that works every day of the year at all hours of the day. We believe this is good for everyone, regardless of walk of life. No-one is being kicked out. Great urban streets are the true mixing ground of the city, and active streets create safe public places for everyone to mix.
Who is leading this project?
We are a local group of business people who believe that a beautiful and vibrant downtown is critical to Eugene’s future. Mark Miksis, Kazem Oveissi, Greg Brokaw, and John Rowell are partners in the project. Our entity is called “2EB,” short for 2 East Broadway. Hugh Prichard and Harris Hoffman, who have a long history of community-minded pioneering development in Eugene, are advisors and participants in the project.
This is a community-oriented project. Our equity investors will be people who are from Eugene and are interested in making a difference in downtown.
Who owns the land now?
The City of Eugene owns the land.
Does this have the City’s blessing?
This idea came from the downtown community. We have had many positive meetings with the city. The city has had many years of experience trying to make this corner a more positive space, often at significant expense. They have been supportive, and their support is key to our moving forward with further work. Ultimately, this is a City Council decision.
Is this a Downtown Eugene Inc (DEI) project or is it private?
2EB LLC is a local group of downtown business people. DEI originated the project, selected 2EB LLC to carry it forward, and is an advocate for its success.
Why is this the right time to do this?
Now that the other three corners are occupied with strong businesses, it is critical that this corner be fixed. It cannot continue to drag on the momentum of downtown. Businesses can come and go, and we need to work to retain the success we’ve built. There is a great deal of frustration among the new, highly motivated merchants to do something about the urban failure this corner represents.
The verdict is clear: this is a failed remnant of the old Eugene Downtown Mall experiment. It is time for it to go. The time is right to continue the momentum of downtown.
Have you thought of including neighboring lots in the project?
A bigger development site may make it more efficient, but we don’t own the adjacent lots. The project is the right size as a local development, and for our locally based development team. Making it bigger would likely push it out of our financial capacity.
Is the lot too small for a building?
No. The building design works well on this lot. There are many examples of buildings this size and height being built in other cities. The smaller footprint buildings follow the traditional development pattern in Eugene, which produced a smaller, finer-grained streetscape–a streetscape that people generally prefer over larger, block-scaled development.
What’s the plan for the ground floor?
Broadway and Willamette now has some of the highest foot-traffic in downtown. There is an opportunity to expand on strengths of the district – food and drink – but we believe that downtown needs to evolve to include micro retail opportunities to the mix. We are having early conversations with potential tenants who have something unique to offer Eugene. The concept for the ground floor is a generous, open space on the corner with big garage doors open to the street. Uses will evolve over time, like any commercial space. A dead corner will come to life, enhancing public space with an exciting, inviting ground level.
There is strong demand for housing in the downtown to help attract and keep young talent who want to live and work in the city. Demographics and demand are changing and Eugene has not kept up with good quality urban housing. The building footprint works well for smaller units. As a local group with deep roots in the community, we believe this is the right thing to do.
Isn't there a need for ownership housing downtown? Have you thought about doing condos?
Condominiums, for a number of reasons, require a type of concrete construction that is not feasible on this site. Condos would also require on-site parking that cannot be accommodated on this site. Broadway and Willamette is a very active and sometimes noisy corner, better suited to rental apartments and commercial space. We do intend to include some larger units for rent at upper levels that may be attractive to those who want to move from their home to a more urban lifestyle.
Have you thought of a rooftop amenity?
We are exploring a shared amenity for residents at the second floor level, closer to the street, possibly with larger windows that could open to below. This reinforces the vibrancy of the corner.
Where is the parking?
We believe many of the apartment dwellers will not want or need a car. EmX is a block away. Many residents will prefer to bike, and ample bicycle parking is proposed in the building. For those who have a car, we will offer the option to lease a space in the Parcade one block away. The city’s parking structures are an important factor in being able to do this kind of development in the downtown parking exempt zone, and the City supports this approach.
How tall is the proposed building?
The building is 6 stories, with a tall ground floor. The C-3 zoning allows a taller building on this site, but we believe this hits the right balance of development feasibility and appropriate urban scale for the center of the city.
Is five stories of housing critical to the development?
The building is a “five over one,” a term used to describe a common construction type for mid-rise housing. The five upper floors are wood frame, on top of a commercial concrete podium. It meets building code, takes advantage of construction efficiencies of wood framing, and is a well-understood, proven way of building mixed use buildings. Urban buildings are more expensive to build than buildings outside the core, so it is important to build the five stories of housing allowed above the podium.
What are you asking for from the city?
In comparison to past downtown projects, this one is proposing a more market-oriented solution. All of the projects completed downtown in recent years have required significant city support. We are not looking for giveaways, but we do need some tools to help this small, locally developed, and relatively challenging project happen. Here are some of our assumptions:
· We propose to pay fair market value for the land. It will not be free.
· We will likely pursue MUPTE, and seek to meet the workforce housing requirement within the project.
· We ask for a loan from the City’s downtown loan program as part of our project financing. This loan will be repaid, just like our bank loan.
What is allowed to be built on the land?
The development we are proposing is allowed outright from a land use perspective.
Tax lot 4800. Size: 55’ x 80.' Zoned C-3.
What’s the timeframe?
We cannot proceed without the ability to purchase the land. The critical go no-go milestone for us is for the City to decide to sell the property. Once that decision is made, we will follow up on due diligence, building design, permitting and begin construction. We expect to hear from the City later this fall. Our goal is to be under construction late spring 2016.
How can I help make this happen?
Email your city councilor and tell them you support the project. When the time comes for public conversations, write a letter to the editor. If there is a public hearing or council vote, come and testify in support.