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Eugene’s Doppelgänger: Paris

December 17th, 2018 by dk

Eugene residents and visitors love to debate what other towns compare favorably with us. Over the years, I’ve written about eerie similarities I’ve noticed when visiting Anchorage, Alaska and Portland, Maine. I’ve also written — more than once — debunking the comparison with Boulder, Colorado or Austin, Texas.

But suddenly I’m finding myself fascinated with our similarities to a different place altogether. It will seem ludicrous and it is, but so what? Ludicrous is something both towns do extremely well. Let’s consider some of the ways that Eugene can aspire to resemble Paris.

I’m not the first to make this suggestion, or one very similar to it. When Ed King first came to Oregon, he saw immediately that our climate is similar to France’s, so he decided there’s no reason wines from here couldn’t grow to be as good. King Estate Winery is rooted in a belief that our terroir is reminiscent of France’s.

King knew his wine would be appreciated best when paired with exquisite cuisine, so he recruited Eugene’s most decorated chef, Stephanie Pearl Kimmel, to run the restaurant beside his tasting room. Kimmel might have been content to stay there, except another of Eugene’s most successful entrepreneurs came with another Francophile offer.

Former Eugene Mayor Brian Obie was preparing to sell his lucrative media company, so he could focus more intently on building the 5th Street Public Market into a destination location. Its eclectic crafts bazaar needed more food options, reminiscent of a French marketplace.

Marché was born from that vision and has been growing into it for more than 20 years. Slowly but surely, the first floor of the 5th Street Public Market has come to resemble a marketplace that grew popular before Europe had refrigeration. It hasn’t died out since.

Look at a map of Paris and then look at a map of Eugene. Each has a curving blue stripe running through it. The Willamette River runs from the West and curves north. The Seine River enters from the Southeast, then curves to exit southwest. Each river slices a quarter of the city from the rest.

Both rivers separate different civic cultures — the Bohemia of the Left Bank being kept safely apart from the aristocracy’s lawns on the other side of the river. Eugene’s riverfront trail offers peace and quiet. Parisians walk their cobblestone quay to evade the city bustle.

Each skyline is marred by a tower near downtown that residents immediately despised. Ya Po Ah Terrace opened in 1968. Tour Montparnasse opened a few years later. Both cities responded with near immediate height restrictions on all new construction.

The Eiffel Tower offers a light show every evening that visitors admire and residents enjoy. Eugene basks beneath “Peace On Earth” every night in December.

Of course, Eugene and Paris are not identical. The cities’ physical size are not the same. Eugene covers 40.54 square miles. Paris is larger — 40.7 square miles.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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