Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Amazon Corner

Amazon Corner entry plaza rendering by Rowell Brokaw Architects

AIA-Southwestern Oregon’s Committee on Local Affairs (CoLA), of which I’m a member, penned the following commentary for the public record in response to an appeal of the decision by the City of Eugene Planning Director in favor of the proposed Amazon Corner development. CoLA supports the project.

Re: Amazon Corner (ARA/TIA 16-0017) 

The Committee on Local Affairs (CoLA) of the American Institute of Architects – Southwestern Oregon Chapter endorses in principle the proposed Amazon Corner mixed-use development. In our professional opinion, the project is entirely consistent with the forward-looking, broadly shared goals of Envision Eugene. We believe it holds great promise as an example of the much-needed type of infill development Envision Eugene champions, one that will help accommodate the anticipated growth of our city’s population while minimizing pressures to expand the urban growth boundary. 

In our view, the Amazon Corner project is attractive for several reasons. Per published plans, the development will: 

  • Increase the amount and diversity of housing to meet a currently underserved segment of the rental market; 
  • Support the City’s efforts to focus and encourage development along or very near to major transportation corridors (including what will likely be a new BRT alignment), bike and pedestrian paths; 
  • Include mixed uses, including retail spaces adding vibrancy to the pedestrian realm while providing desirable goods and services; 
  • Contribute toward a more walkable neighborhood; and 
  • Add people so local businesses flourish and public transit can operate with greater efficiency. 
While we are sympathetic to the immediate neighbors who have expressed concerns regarding adverse traffic impacts, we are optimistic those impacts will not prove to be as significant as they fear. Because of the presence of abundant access to transportation options, and the proximity of dining, shopping, and services, the residents of Amazon Corner may use their cars less than some expect. Regardless, we concur with the Planning Director’s decision mandating addition of a signalized pedestrian crossing on Hilyard Street and dedicated turn lanes to help traffic on East 31st Avenue get onto Hilyard. These are prudent measures that will help mitigate increases in vehicular traffic that may be associated with the project. 

Partial plan along Hilyard Street and west elevation (Rowell Brokaw Architects)

We find it noteworthy that the Eugene-based developers—Amazon Corner LLC—are not planning to build to the full potential permitted outright under the C-2 designation. While substantial, the proposed height of five stories will certainly be less obtrusive than a structure that may have taken full advantage of the 120’ height restriction. 

Promoting compact urban development is a strategy that has been proven elsewhere to foster housing choice, support efficient transportation options, and preserve arable and natural lands. If our city is to manage its growth in a manner consistent with the values espoused by Envision Eugene, we cannot afford to squander opportunities to encourage thoughtful compact development when they present themselves. In this case, Amazon Corner exactly fits the mold. If successful, it may serve as a valuable precedent for similar projects throughout Eugene that neighbors will welcome rather than oppose. We believe it is the right project, in the right place, at the right time. 

Scott Clarke, Eric Gunderson, Stan Honn, Randy Nishimura, and Travis Sheridan (1)
Members, American Institute of Architects – Southwestern Oregon Chapter Eugene-Springfield Committee on Local Affairs.  

(1)  Committee member Austin Bailey recused himself from comment because he is a member of the Rowell Brokaw Architects team working on the project for Amazon Corner LLC.

No comments: