Redevelop Existing Urban Areas

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), July 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

Redevelop Existing Urban Areas


Byline: Jan Spencer For The Register-Guard

The Nodal Development Workshop in late June was of mixed use. The cities of Eugene and Springfield, a state agency, local chambers of commerce and home builders combined to promote smart growth by way of "nodal development."

Nodal development is popularly defined as a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly land use pattern that seeks to concentrate population and employment in well-defined areas with good transit service, a mix of compatible land uses and public and private improvements.

These common-sense concepts urgently need to be implemented, but the workshop revealed a disconnect between the ideas described and the examples presented. The examples were focused on multihundred-acre projects built on open space at the edges of various Oregon towns - essentially more of what is already causing many of our urban problems.

We urgently need to make smarter use of our urban landscapes. Our cities and towns are too spread out, and we depend too heavily on automobiles. The costs of this dependence are growing rapidly.

Air and water pollution from cars and trucks tax public health at a cost of hundreds of billions each year. The average American family spends more on transportation than on food and health care combined. The U.S. imports more than 60 percent of its petroleum, much of it from unstable countries, while future supply at current levels and prices is unlikely. Oregon is woefully behind in rebuilding roads and bridges. Even the state mandates Oregon communities to adopt plans to reduce miles driven in automobiles. The list goes on, and we are less and less able to afford the bill.

We should make better use of infrastructure we already have. Imagine Eugene with a vibrant downtown - including new and attractive multistory buildings with shops, services and employment near ground level and a variety of residential choices above. St. Vincent de Paul's Aurora Project at 11th Avenue and Oak Street is an excellent example of multistory, mixed-use infill. Current efforts to build more residential, commercial and employment projects downtown are good ideas. Public transportation already exists downtown, underused property is abundant, and cultural and educational assets are plentiful.

Imagine existing residential areas with neighborhood-scale commercial and employment infill at locations such as across from Churchill High School or 18th Avenue and Chambers Street. …

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