New businesses and community events have brought a new lively atmosphere to once dilapidated downtown area.
“I think there’s just really lovely energy. There’s a very positive turn that’s happening. Downtown was on the bleeding edge for so long and that’s changing,” said Eriel Hoffmeier. Hoffmeier is a sales-associate at Urban Lumber, a company specializing in salvaged wood furniture.
Urban Lumber is just one of the many small businesses beginning to fill the once empty downtown storefronts. The new businesses opening, the Eugene Public Library and the new Lane Community College campus being built are all helping bring life back to downtown and are receiving positive responses from the community.
There are also other downtown traditions that help bring the neighborhood as well as other Eugene residents together. The First Friday ArtWalk and Eugene Saturday Market are mainstays of downtown’s community, providing local artists and craftsmen a place to showcase work. The Saturday Market is also home to a farmer’s market where Eugene residents go to buy fresh local foods. David Hascall and his wife Barbra own Barbara’s Bar Soaps and Lotions of the Season, a booth at Saturday Market. “I like the culture down here. Not only the market, but in the community. There are some amazing people down here. There’s a lot to be said about working for yourself and making a craft,” said Hascall.
While residents such as Hascall enjoy the culture downtown, he and others still see much room for improvement. Downtown residents and merchants agree that the homeless population is a major concern.
On Monday, October 8, Mayor Kitty Piercy cast the tie breaking vote to keep the downtown exclusion zone for another year. The law keeps people who have committed serious crimes out of Eugene’s downtown area. Last night the law was modified to remove less serious crimes from the list of charges that could lead to exclusion.
“I think the security patrol we have going on is fantastic. I think the exclusionary act is important,” Hoffmeier said. Recently, she witnessed a fight break out between four men in front of Urban Lumber’s downtown storefront. “That happened in the course of doing business. That’s incredibly infuriating.”
However, other residents believe that there are different solutions to downtown’s homeless problem. Noah DeWitt, a University of Oregon student, believes that a place such as Portland’s Dignity Village is a better solution to homelessness in downtown. Don Massey has lived in downtown for 34 years and agrees with DeWitt that there needs to be a program in place to help the homeless assimilate back into the community. Massey said, “I think they need to have some sort of homeless camp for them. They need someplace that they can go and be alright. I’d like to see that fixed.”