– By Derek Brown-
We often forget how important a simple “hello” can be during hard times. In the Whiteaker neighborhood, they don’t.
The oldest neighborhood in Eugene, this compact ten-block area is known for being tight-knit and inclusive by residents and visitors alike. While enjoying a night outside Papa’s Soul Food, Chris Hoke said of his last six years living in the Whiteaker, “I love it, these are cool people here. The kind of people who will say hello to you when you’re walking down the street. It’s a very friendly neighborhood.”
Not long ago the neighborhood was playing the song of a different beat. Crime was high, and the old houses and buildings were seen as a liability. However, much changed when the emergence of restaurants and breweries began to attract more visitors and foot traffic. While these new patrons explored the new establishments, older business saw their profits increase due to spillover.
Now excitement brews in the Whiteaker. Literally, as Sam Bond’s Garage bartender Andrew Lathorp explained, “this spring it’s going to change, there is going to be a lot of stuff going on. We have three different breweries and tasting rooms coming in. They are saying that we could be like the next Barmuda Triangle.” The “Barmuda Triangle” that Lathorp referred to is the combination of seven bars –The Horsehead, The Starlight Lounge, John Henry’s, Jameson’s Bar, Rogue Brewery, Snafu and Luckey’s Club– meeting at the intersection of 5th and Pearl St.
Although the prospect vibrant nightlife is a rousing for an up-and-coming community, it’s not the origin of the Whiteaker’s appeal. For Lathorp the best part of the the community is the community itself. “I’ve never lived or been in a neighborhood that comes together for more things and is more active in things, they have an annual clean-up where people get together and walk around and pick up trash. Its the best thing about it.”
However, for some problems help is needed beyond community organization. Whiteaker resident Valarie Cooley said, “One thing that I think is a huge problem is we were walking down by the railroad tracks and this place is covered in human waste. I guess the homeless population use it as their toilet, that was really shocking to me.” She went on to insist that Porta Potty’s are needed to help combat this plight.
This is just one more hurdle that the community faces and will likely conquer. The Whiteaker neighborhood, with its rich culture of food and community, realizes that its virtue lies in its togetherness. But its camaraderie isn’t exclusive, it’s to the contrary . So the next you’re in the Whiteaker don’t be afraid to say “hello.”