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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Holiday Cookie Smell

November 5th, 2005 by dk

Is that the sweet smell of success wafting through downtown? Or is it holiday baking? Maybe it’s both.

Every issue we debate here concerns the health of downtown Eugene. The Urban Growth Boundary, West Eugene Parkway, Bus Rapid Transit (EmX), job creation, public safety, even housing athletes for the Olympic trials or siting a new hospital—every civic challenge becomes harder when the center doesn’t claim its place. Gertrude Stein famously quipped about Oakland, California: “there’s no there there.” If proximity to downtown doesn’t give people value, then yes, they’d rather live and work where land is cheaper. When home builders or businesses choose the outskirts of Eugene or Veneta or Junction City, they make a statement about downtown’s value.

John Kitzhaber once mused that Oregonians won’t accept only two things: sprawl and density. He was 99 percent correct about sprawl—nearly nobody wants Oregon to resemble California or Seattle. But Oregonians are less unanimous about density. Jean Tate has bet her reputation and her life savings on it, building high-end condos on the southern edge of downtown. Hugh Prichard, Gretchen Hult Pierce, the Baker family, and possibly soon Tom Connor and Don Woolley are all betting dollars on residential demand downtown.

If they succeed, we’ll all benefit. Eugene’s planners want to pioneer what they call “nodal development.” They admit the name isn’t very jazzy—it sounds like cause for a medical procedure—but it can’t very well work if the Mother Node of downtown doesn’t work very well.

I’d rename those nodes C.H.I.P.s— “Commerce and Housing In Proximity” —and I’d bring fresh chocolate chip cookies to every public hearing. To those who fear growth, I’d remind them we’re not making fudge. The cookie dough of neighborhoods will keep the CHIPs distinct and enjoyable, without becoming too rich or heavy. (Of course, it’s Eugene, so we might throw in a few nuts.)

First we need a recipe for growth that smells good to us. Then we’ll be cookin’.

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