This year’s panel included:
Philip Farrington – PeaceHealth
Jon Lauch – Eugene School District 4J
Chris Ramey, AIA – University of Oregon
David Suchart – Lane County
Denny Braud – City of Eugene
John Tamulonis – City of Springfield
David Hauser – Eugene Chamber of Commerce
A message echoed by all of the speakers was that, despite the dire straits we are navigating through this worsening recession, there is reason for optimism. Some of this stems from the fact that federal stimulus money will soon find its way here. For example, Jon Lauch of District 4J reported that $3.4 million has already been earmarked for infrastructure upgrades, such as repairs to roofs of existing schools. Chris Ramey likewise mentioned that the University of Oregon will receive $2.9 million specifically for the purpose of tackling a backlog of small deferred maintenance projects. Denny Braud told the audience that the City of Eugene has thirty public works projects totaling $25 million that are “shovel-ready,” including plans for a $4 million pedestrian/bicycle bridge crossing I-105 at Delta Ponds that will realize the City’s vision of a more comprehensive bicycle path network.
Together, the federal stimulus funds being directed to our local public agencies are relatively modest; nevertheless, this is money that will help retain or generate employment for projects that otherwise would not have moved forward.
There is also optimism rooted in the diversification of the local economy since the last deep recession during the 1980s. This diversity may help cushion the impact of the current economic downturn. Indeed, our speakers highlighted the positives, describing a number of promising developments, either on the boards or already under construction.
According to Philip Farrington, the investment that Peacehealth has made in its new Riverbend hospital will pay dividends for many years to come, as the construction of ancillary and related developments will continue. Peacehealth also remains dedicated to its Sacred Heart at University District facility, although immediate construction plans there will be deferred until 2010.
David Suchart pointed to Lane County’s proposal to build the Martin Luther King Education Center, which would be constructed next to the existing Juvenile Justice Center. He also listed the County’s projects for developing federally-qualified health centers (FQHC), and the replacement of the existing Child Advocacy Center.
David Hauser reminded everyone that the massive new State of Oregon psychiatric hospital and penitentiary projects in Junction City are in the planning stages. In addition, he mentioned the prospects for a large new Veterans Affairs medical clinic to be sited in the Eugene-Springfield metro area, as well as the growth of innovative companies such as Bulk Handling Systems and Life Technologies.
John Tamulonis cited the development of a new Hilton Garden Inn, located in the Gateway area of Springfield, as well as the extension of Lane Transit District’s Em-X bus rapid transit line to the Gateway Mall and International Way. Jerry’s Home Improvement Center in Springfield is planning a $1.7 million expansion, and Phase 2 of the Bring Recycling Center is also in the works.
You can either be a “cup half-full” or “cup half-empty” kind of person. I’m a “half-full” type myself, and I am confident that the Eugene-Springfield metro area simply has too much to offer to truly collapse economically. There will unquestionably be hardships – we’ve seen layoffs at major employers such as Country Coach already – but the potential for success long-term is too great not to be optimistic. For those of us in the architectural profession, the goal should be to seize upon the opportunities inherent in this potential and facilitate the kinds of future developments that will further enhance livability, sustainability, and the attractiveness of our community for years to come.
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