Sunday, March 6, 2016

Next Generation Downtown: CoLA Speaks Out

Lane County Farmers Market in downtown Eugene on a warm, sunny day (my photo)
The following is a piece regarding the future of Eugene’s downtown urban renewal district penned by the members of AIA-SWO’s Committee on Local Affairs for submission to The Register-Guard as a Letter to the Editor on the paper’s Opinion page. CoLA also intends to send the letter to Eugene city councilors, the mayor, and the City Manager. 
The Committee on Local Affairs (CoLA) of the American Institute of Architects – Southwestern Oregon Chapter endorses extension of the downtown Eugene urban renewal district. Extending the district would fund downtown projects that in turn would attract high-quality private development consistent with the City’s long-term objectives. 
Opponents argue urban renewal districts siphon money out of the city’s general fund but this isn’t entirely true. Tax increment financing reserves any increase in property tax proceeds for improvements inside the urban renewal district. In other words, higher revenue attributable to increases in the assessed value of properties, which might not otherwise have occurred or been as pronounced without investment within the district, are reinvested there to further encourage desirable outcomes. The result can be a positive feedback cycle wherein financing of downtown infrastructure improvements begets needed private sector development resulting in additional income from property taxes, which funds further public investment, and so on. 
Yes, dissolution of an urban renewal district once all debt is repaid should be the ultimate goal. When dissolution occurs the entire city would benefit from the increased property base within it; however, CoLA does not believe now is the time. What we do believe is that we must capitalize upon the momentum of downtown Eugene’s recent resurgence. 
Everyone wins when our downtown core is economically prosperous and a vibrant, inviting, and safe center for business, government, culture, and housing. It should be the heart of our community’s regional economy, one that buoys the entire city. CoLA strongly supports extending the urban renewal district as a significant means to achieve these widely shared and far-reaching goals.

Austin Bailey, Scott Clarke, Randy Nishimura, and Travis Sheridan
Members, Committee on Local Affairs, American Institute of Architects – Southwestern Oregon Chapter


dgeugene said...

This seems to be another turn of the wheel. The downtown renewal (before I moved to Eugene) ended up looking like Chernobyl. When I lived in Eugene it never occurred to me to shop downtown for example, always Valley River, endless stores, plenty of free parking and no corrupt parking authority manufacturing tickets.

Randy Nishimura, AIA, CSI, CCS said...

Dennis: I agree the history of urban renewal in Eugene is not a stellar one. But that was then and this is now. I like to think we've all learned from past mistakes about what it takes to make our downtown core work better (fingers crossed).