Monday night’s work session began quietly enough. Staff provided updates on the process for identifying a developer for the former EWEB steamplant on the riverfront and on the feasibility study related to creating a permanent shelter for the homeless.
Staff, supported by the citizen advisory “RiverGuides”, presented a recommended process for releasing a Request for Qualifications to attract developers for the steamplant. Council, in their role as the board of the Urban Renewal Agency, approved the plan to move forward with a release of the RFQ next week. We expect to see proposals submitted in the summer and selection of a developer to follow in the fall. Our goal is to see the plant renovated as a pivotal gathering place and historic landmark on the river.
As for the update on a homeless shelter, the joint city/county team has selected the Technical Assistance Collaborative to undertake the feasibility study. The consultants, based in Boston, came to Eugene last week for their first round of interviews and site visits, including a presentation to the Poverty and Homelessness Board. They come with 25 years of experience both at the local level as administrators of shelter and service providers and at the policy level. The team observed that Eugene has a high level of unsheltered people for a city our size, but also has the advantage of political will and a high number of volunteers supporting our efforts. They were interested in undertaking this study because they felt their work “could really make a difference.” Their initial work will entail mapping our existing services to identify connections and gaps that can be strengthened and filled by a shelter, as well as to identify resources for sustaining a shelter. Draft recommendations will be open for public conversation and engagement in the fall; and a final report will come at the year’s end.
We also voted on Monday night to revise our ordinance governing ride share companies, opening the door for Uber and Lyft to enter the Eugene market; and we approved the renaming of Westmoreland Community Center in honor of the late Dr. Edwin L. Coleman, Jr; and an unnamed park near the corner of Royal Avenue and Elizabeth St. after the late Andrea Ortiz. Both renamings were suggested and promoted by Councilor Greg Evans as a key step in recognizing publicly the contributions of people of color, who are underrepresented in our named parks and public buildings.
In the midst of all of this good work, our public forum hosted a roomful of speakers advocating for the city to begin an application process to register the east grandstand of Hayward Field as a national historic site. The university last week unveiled plans to renovate Hayward Field that call for the demolition of the east grandstands. The reasons include assessments that the stands are not seismically sound or handicap accessible, and are coated with layers of lead-based paint.
The implications of initiating the historic designation process are profound, as it would delay the entire construction timeline and most likely make it impossible for the track to be ready to host the 2020 NCAA meet or the 2021 IAAF World Track and Field event. It is also now clear that the application would not prevent the demolition which could proceed anyway. Staff is reviewing the legal and other implications to present to our next council meeting on Wednesday, May 9th. It is my hope that we can encourage a thoughtful deconstruction and salvage of parts of the grandstands to enable the community to participate in conversations about how much and where we can honor and reconstruct some elements. The university is also proposing to include a 6,000 sq. ft. museum on site that will display parts of the stadium.