History Clouds Vision for Future
Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard
The Shawmed and Taco Time buildings in downtown Eugene are far from their original state. Both have been remodeled multiple times since they were built.
The building that houses the Taco Time restaurant at Willamette Street and Broadway today is covered in gray stucco and sports red, white, green and blue awnings with the restaurant's trademark cactus. Vertical slabs have been added around upper floor windows.
The Shawmed building at Broadway and Charnelton Street, also clad in stucco, resembles a one-story brown box.
But some local residents say the buildings' historic value makes them worth preserving. Some of this group are opposed to the city's tentative plans to redevelop West Broadway and say the buildings should not be razed as part of the redevelopment.
"We believe that the historic buildings should be reclaimed and refurbished, given that we have lost virtually all the historical buildings through previous urban renewal redevelopments," said David Monk. Monk is president of Citizens for Public Accountability but said he is speaking for himself and that his views do not necessarily reflect those of the group.
The controversy over the buildings has arisen as the 11-member West Broadway Advisory Committee is working on final recommendations to the City Council.
Monk suggested that the controversy could spill over to the Nov. 6 election on the city's plans to finance the redevelopment.
"I think we all recognize that urban renewal has been a disaster in the past, in terms of knocking down historical buildings and leaving us with 1970s buildings that are unattractive," Monk said.
Other residents, however, said they doubt the two buildings are worth saving, mainly because they have been dramatically changed over the years. "Just because a building is old, doesn't mean that it's good," Eugene architect Otto Poticha said.
Others said the buildings could be preserved, but not necessarily restored because so many of their original features are gone.
"So what we are talking about is not exactly historic preservation, but historic reconstruction," said Greg McLauchlan, co-chair of the West Broadway Advisory Committee.
One of two recent city reports on the subject reached the same conclusion.
The City Council last May tentatively picked two Portland developers to transform the two blocks of Broadway. Beam Development wants to renovate the Centre Court and Washburne buildings near Broadway and Willamette. The other firm, KWG Development Partners, wants to put up new buildings on both blocks of West Broadway, including on the Shawmed and Taco Time properties.
To qualify for federal redevelopment funds, the city ordered a report on the historic properties in and around West Broadway.
The July report, by the Corvallis firm Parametrix, identified just one structure on West Broadway - the 80-year-old Washburne Building - as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The State Historic Preservation Office confirmed the finding.
But opponents of KWG's plans raised concerns about the Shawmed and Taco Time buildings. That triggered the hiring of Venerable Properties of Portland, which specializes in renovating historic buildings, to research the buildings' historic value.
Venerable consultant Jessica Engeman visited Eugene on Aug. 14 and inspected the buildings. She concluded that neither building could be restored.
But preservation proponents criticized her report as superficial. They said more research is needed, including removing parts of the stucco exteriors to see how much of each of the original building is underneath. …