Downtown Springfield residents want to see the city grow up but maintain the small town feel.
By Brittany Nguyen
With more businesses and high-rise buildings coming to downtown Springfield, some residents feel a mix of feelings towards the changes for the area, wanting to maintain the small, old town feel.
Many local businesses thrive in the downtown area but must make room for the incoming businesses as well. Once known as a small lumber city, Springfield must now accommodate for the changes it needs in order to maintain a healthy economic growth. And with a growing small town come a growing crime rate and the possibilities of prostitution, things that the local residents say contribute to the loss of the small town feel.
White Cloud Jeweler’s, Inc. owner George Cloud sees Springfield as a city that is “just growing up” and taking “big city air”. He watched as businesses continued to open all the way down to the Thurston area.
Cloud has seen a Goodwill turn into a high-rise building and the city put several million dollars into a new museum, bringing in people from all parts of the country to study here. Large businesses such as the Royal Caribbean Cruise line call center arrived as well, bringing in economic growth but at a cost to the small town feel.
“This happens everywhere,” the New Orleans native said of the changes.
However, according to Cloud, the growth of the city spurs growth in crime and prostitution as well.
“[It] seems like there are a lot of ex-cons here and I’m sure they are in Eugene too,” Cloud said. “They are all over the world. But I see a lot of ex-cons and they religiously say they are.”
Cloud lived in the back of his business for 14 years and would see prostitutes walking up and down the streets until the police would run them out of town.
Gateways High School principal Chris Reiersgaard sees prostitution in Springfield differently. In fact, he doesn’t see it at all.
“It has never come to my attention,” the 46-year-old said. “I read about it in the paper like everyone else. The business owners may have more of an issue with it.”
However, the Springfield native, who grew up in the Thurston area and is now raising his own family there, joked about the high number of strip clubs.
“Our Christmas parade used to start on Olympic Boulevard,” Reiersgaard said. “And we used to say that it started at the adult bookstore and ended at the strip club.”
Despite the high number of strip clubs, Reiersgaard also agrees that the business industry continues to thrive and grow here.
“The old mayor did a great job of promoting Springfield as a place for businesses to come in,” Reiersgaard said, who has seen the growth throughout Springfield and not just limited to the downtown area.
Although Eugene resident Frank Stahl loves Springfield for its cozy, old town feelings, he also supports its growth.
“I would like to see it be more economically viable without destroying its small town atmosphere,” Stahl said, who comes to downtown Springfield once a month to volunteer as a gallery guide at the Emerald Art Center.
Stahl’s favorite part of the downtown area are the beautifully maintained homes from the late 1800’s-early 1900’s, when Springfield was a thriving lumber city.
“People like a small town,” Cloud said, “but it’s getting bigger.”