OBSERVATIONS

5/29/2023


Eugene City Hall at the former EWEB administrative center site.


Chronology :


• Several years ago, the Manager, Mayor and City Council wanted to replace the current National architectural competition City Hall for various reasons. The result of many meetings the council formed a citizens committee to work with two architectural firms and recommend to the Council to evacuate and renovate the existing building or to remove the existing and build new. The architectural study included “ what would the city have after spending $12m. The citizens committee recommended renovating the existing.The city sent out invitations to architects to submit interest and finally be retained to renovate the existing. After a long process the selection committee selected a Portland

architect. The manager was not satisfied with the selection and extended to selection process and made the decision to retain the local architectural firm that prepared the new building study. The task however was to renovate the existing. The local architect

after study came to the Council with a report that the renovate option study could not be completed within the City’s $12M budget. Mayor, Manager and Council then decided to demolish the existing building, fill the site build a new ceremonial city hall and move on. To conclude the ongoing debate the manager retained a contractor and had the building removed before testing  the new building option. The new building option architectural work was then completed and proved too expensive to build. Eugene was now left with a bare site, had spent +/- $4M and without a City Hall and now renting space for City Hall functions for $1.5M/yr.


• During this process a City Council Member suggested best solution for the new replacement City Hall should be at the EWEB Headquarters Building since most of EWEB’s functions were relocated to their new West Side complex. The city retained another architect to examine that possibility and the related costs. This study suggested that this was not possible to meet the City’s sustainable building requirements and program within their budget. This combined with moving City Hall from the downtown or government center and vacating a fragile downtown of 100,000 Sq.Ft. of rental space plus 200 employees was not an acceptable solution and was rejected by Council and as recently as December 2022 by the Mayor and Manager that would not happen.


• These actions resulted in the County trading the “butterfly” parking structure that was located on the NW corner of the “Park Blocks” for the full block former City Hall site. The plan was for the County to abandon the current Lane County Courthouse and build a significantly larger newer Courthouse on the former City Hall site. In the interim the site would be an on grade open parking lot until funds could be obtained. The city would use the former “butterfly parking lot sit to build apermanent “farmer’s market” building, develop the NW remaining “Park Block” for the new City Hall. The city retained a Landscape Architect and a Portland architect to design those structures and site development. The market building was built but the City Hall was not due to inadequate remaining funds in the City reserve.


• The spaces designated for City Hall public functions were leased from Lane County and now Lane Community College in their downtown Campus.


• EWEB, during all the new City Hall problems, disposed of most of their, along the river properties to developers, the bulk for housing with retail and commercial, the former Steam Plant for retail or commercial and a strip along the river high embankment for a new community park. The $14M park is now developed and

the housing developer’s first phaseis under construction. The developer has been relieved of providing commercial space along with the housing and has been allowed for the housing to be rentals rather than condos as originally proposed. The Steam Plant development has changed uses many times and does not appear to be making progress. The remaining EWEB parcel of 4.4 acres including the former headquarters building was offered for sale as surplus property through a public RFP process. Several developers and agencies were interested but no one could meet the EWEB scoring criteria and the RFP was cancelled. The EWEB board then instructed their manager to forgo the criteria and dispose of the remaining parcel


• During this RFP process a small group of Eugene citizens organized to share the CulturalCenter Complex idea and attempt to convince EWEB’s board to cancel the RFP and allow them to form as a nonprofit, raise funds and develop the site and

building as the Eugene Cultural Center.  The board refused this offer. This group continued to meet with prominent citizens for their support ( 300 signatures within 1 week) and made a formal offer during the RFP process. The small group met with all the rejected.


RFP respondents and re-addressed the issue to EWEB incorporating some of the interested agencies and presented a proposal to the EWEB Manager as the Eugene Community Cultural Complex which would be a collection of cultural and educational facilities as a “neighborhood” on the river with and a part of the new City

Riverfront Park all connected to the large open space called North Bank Park. This complex would bring seven day a week opportunity for the region and community and reinforce the public’s connection to the river. Occupants for the complex may be a Rivers Museum, Lane County Historic Museum, The Science Factory, The Eugene

Art Museum, and the national Hippy Hall of Fame. There was andstill is a great deal of support. After introducing this idea 300 signatures were obtained from citizens to support a formal proposal to the EWEB Manager for his task to dispose of the

building and site.


• After this work and other proposals offered to the EWEB manager’s disposal task the Eugene City Manager made an offer to purchase the site and building for the City Hall for $12M with an $8M down payment and the balance in 5 years. This is the offer accepted by the EWEB manager and the board.  The city is currently doing a“due diligence” study of the building and site. The Cultural Center Complex group spoke with City Staff assigned to the due diligence study suggesting that the purchase will probably be a done deal and were ready to support that solution. That support was

based on the opinion that the former EWEB building and site alongthe river should remain in the public’s ownership and benefit. The group explained that with increased need for security in this era, public buildings are not friendly buildings and with the internet as means of communication it is difficult to go into a public building without an appointment. It also pointed out that using the building and site for City Hall functions will be only a 5 day a week opportunity and with no retail uses along the park, the community will not have much reason to connect with the river. So, the group proposed that a master plan be developed that would use either the ground floor of the larger building and the City Hall functions on the three remaining upper

floors or the separate but connected smaller building be developed as visual arts center and community art museum with the remaining sites be reserved and planned for the other noted cultural center members of the neighborhood. The new City Hall would be one of the tenants within the neighborhood and could be the nucleus for

the Eugene Cultural Center. This proposal was accepted by the staff, but, so far has not been set into motion. The Cultural Center Complex Group remains very active and secure in the compelling nature of its proposal.