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Franklin Corridor Makeover Has (Recent) History

February 1st, 2019 by dk

The City of Eugene and the University of Oregon are charting a new course for Franklin Boulevard. They are seeking input from citizens at design discovery workshops next week, but are missing a bit of local history about Eugene’s signature gateway.

Residents can view early designs and provide feedback during open studio hours on Tuesday, Jan. 29, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Romania Building, 2020 Franklin Blvd. Related events are scheduled for Monday and Thursday evenings. Details are available at https://www.eugene-or.gov/Franklin.

The project’s website lists many supporting documents that will inform their work. It doesn’t include the most recent and focused study done, in part because the work did not culminate in a formal report. Instead, the group produced an eight-page pamphlet that summarized its findings. I pulled out my copy to review this week.

In 2007, the American Institute of Architects wanted to make a splash to celebrate its 150th anniversary. AIA solicited project proposals from its local chapters across the country as a massive effort to “give back” to its members, who would in turn give back to their local communities.

Under the leadership of local chapter president Artemio Paz, AIA Southwestern Oregon received one of the largest grants given. Lane Transit District, University of Oregon, and the cities of Eugene and Springfield matched the association’s funding for the Franklin Corridor Riverfront Study of 2007.

I was hired to help a dozen local design leaders guide the project. We reached beyond the usual suspects by leafleting residents and business owners in the area. We used lawn signs to attract commuters. We hosted multiple events that were open to all comers.

A full year of community conversations was distilled to this brief vision statement: “The Franklin Riverfront Corridor will be a dynamic place worth visiting — not just a place to pass through. Historically a natural river course, later paralleled by key transportation links, it should now be a place for people.

“It is a sustainable place, announced by gateways, with a public waterfront, with ‘green fingers’ extending into the community. Mixed-use buildings line the multi-way boulevard that safely accommodates pedestrians, bikes, cars, and public transit. It is a coherent place united by our collaboration.”

We didn’t produce a comprehensive report, but we did share our findings with the world. The Franklin Corridor Riverfront Study was highlighted as featured content by Google Earth in 2008.

Much has happened across this stretch of land since 2007. EWEB’s riverfront property is being redeveloped. One housing tower has been built and another is on the way. Phil and Penny Knight have underwritten a billion-dollar campus addition, including a skybridge over Franklin. Matthew Knight Arena, Ford Alumni Center, and Jaqua Center gleam along the route.

A new I-5 bridge carries traffic across the Willamette River. Hotels are rising in Glenwood, along a reconfigured boulevard with roundabouts and local access lanes. None of this is incompatible with the vision that was forged a dozen years ago for Eugene’s, Springfield’s, the University of Oregon’s, and the people’s Franklin Corridor.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com. Kahle was executive director for AIA-SWO from 2007 until 2014.

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