The Community of Downtown Eugene

By Troy Brynelson

Downtown Eugene could be the entire city in a nutshell. The transit station, for many a turnstile to and from Eugene, drops one right into a block of tattoo parlors, coffee shops, bars, a library, Lane Community College, and just outside the University of Oregon campus. The city’s essential citizens, students and the homeless, are rife.

The neighborhood has a lot offer. Kesey Square, on Willamette and Broadway, seems to exemplify Eugene with its tribute to the famed author Ken Kesey (beloved for his psychedelics, another city staple); as well as the presence of regional favorite Voodoo Doughnuts.  Mark Sheppard, an employee at The Barn Light, a relatively new coffee shop in the square, has subsisted in downtown on the business of the students and young adults who visit. “I’m happy that there are hipper new businesses coming in to attract people,” he said, “like this place, the Bijou, and Vodoo.”

Barabara Smith, who works at the Help Desk at the Eugene Library and lives downtown, also enjoys the compactness of the neighborhood. “I live across from the Shedd, next to a grocery store and close to the library,” she said, referring to the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts on 9th and High street., and which showcases local art, performance and music. “It’s a very convenient place to live.”

Though it’s not without its blemishes. “It’s nice the library and the bus system are so close in the middle of downtown,” said Jeremy Cook, who was filming a movie about animal rights outside of the library. “But I would improve one-way streets, it gets people confused. I don’t know how many accidents happen, but I’m sure there are a lot.”

Sheppard says he would like to see an effort to improve the diversity and the presence of small businesses in the neighborhood. Such efforts would help improve what he finds to be missing. “I think they should be doing more to encourage small businsesses. Like business incentives,” he said. “We need more vibrancy.”

Another much-maligned aspect of downtown is the overwhelming amount of homeless people, which doesn’t exactly help with the neighborhood’s apparent “vibrancy” problems. Barbara Smith touched on this personally by saying, “I hope that they’ll someday find a way to help the homeless people. I feel really bad for them.” This is evident in the presence of St. Vincent de Paul, a nonprofit dedicated to homeless assistance, which has two retail stores for thrift and donations in the neighborhood.

Though, it’s impossible to please everyone, plain and simple. Dana Miller, a young mother outside of the library, told the beat blog “I don’t like downtown. There are too many people. I only come to the library.”

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