Downtown Eugene has many faces. On the weekends, the neighborhood blocks will be filled with families and college students exploring the Saturday Market and surrounding shops, on weekend nights one can experience the bar scene and during the week the streets are practically empty, save for library patrons and those transferring buses at the LTD station. However, despite the seemingly disjointed community, those living, playing and working in downtown Eugene are passionate about the neighborhood and committed to seeing and hoping for the best in their area.
Mark Sheppard of The Barn Light—a coffee shop by day, bar by night at 924 Willamette St—is hopeful about what the downtown area will have to offer shoppers and residents in the coming years: “Downtown Eugene is traditionally a dead space. I’m happy that there are hipper new businesses coming in—businesses that attract hip people… like this place, the Bijou, Voodoo, that kind of thing.” Sheppard explained that businesses like The Barn Light are going to do great things for the downtown area because they will bring in students looking for study spots during the day, and offer an alternative venue for the night scene. Sheppard added that, “I think they should be doing more to encourage small businesses, like business incentives. We need more vibrancy.”
In the center of downtown is the Eugene Public Library and the LTD Downtown Transfer station. Barbara Smith is a volunteer at the Eugene Library Help Desk and has been living in Eugene for many years. On January 26th, she could be found with her hands quietly folded on top of the desk, book propped open and head bowed as she read, despite the babble of hundreds of library patrons. Smith was quick to describe her love for the neighborhood: “There’s a lot going on Downtown. I live across from the Shedd, next to a grocery store and it’s close to the library—it’s a convenient place to live.” Though she did suggest that the city government should be doing more to help the city’s homeless: “I hope that they’ll someday find a way to help the homeless people. It’s just a shame. I feel really bad for them.”
Outside the library on the same day, Jeremy Cook was filming a movie about animal rights, though he was not able to elaborate further. As more of a casual passerby of the neighborhood than of Sheppard or Smith, Cook’s evaluation of the neighborhood was surface-based: he likes the library and the fact that it and the bus system are so close to each other in the middle of downtown. He also likes the small touches the city makes to brighten each season, such as the plants that are hung from the light posts in the spring.