Ask anyone who knows about the successes of Portland’s downtown and they’ll credit the Portland Development Commission. They may not agree whether it’s a public-private partnership that has grown into a force to be reckoned with, or a quasi-governmental agency that’s drunk with power and out of control. But there’s no denying it gets things done. Using tax increment financing, federal block grants, tax waivers and deferrals, various targeted incentives, and just plain shrewd deals, PDC has become the envy of urban planners across the country — except in Eugene, where out-of-town solutions always lose their sheen. The Eugene Development Commission disbanded twenty years ago — about the same time PDC began gaining traction.
Let’s bring it back, but with a new Eugenean twist.
Eugene Conservation & Development Commission would be charged with both building up downtown and preserving citywide open space. We know that open space (a.k.a. “quality of life”) powerfully attracts people and businesses here. We also know that only the economics of development will allow us to continue banking land for parks and wildlife. So why not have a single group focused on both?
As in Portland, the commission would grow in influence as it succeeded in fulfilling its charge. Each development project would bring with it responsibility to set aside more land, either inside or contiguous to the urban growth boundary.
Need more pocket parks? Want a greenbelt between us and Junction City? Time to extend a bike path or a ridges-to-rivers trail or another habitat corridor? Development successes would make each possible.
By some measurements, we could achieve the impossible dream. We could grow but not change.
Conservation and development will feed each other. Tie them together so no faction can root for half a success. With broad public support, the Eugene Conservation & Development Commission will be nimble and responsive, but also uniquely Eugene.