Downtown Eugene is flourishing through a strong partnership between the City of Eugene and local businesses. After a difficult spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, creative thinking by local entrepreneurs and City staff led to an innovative solution to help downtown thrive again. The “Streatery” program was born. Now the second full-block street closure in downtown is launching on Fifth Avenue. Each weekend through October, a block of Fifth Avenue in downtown Eugene is being closed to vehicles to allow adjacent restaurants to use the public space for outdoor dining.
Fifth Avenue between Pearl and High Streets is being closed to traffic for three days each week. The closure will allow restaurants and other businesses in and around Fifth Street Public Market to expand outdoors while indoor space is limited because of COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
“Now more than ever, it’s essential to the livelihood of our downtown community to provide safe, meaningful experiences for our guests where distancing can be maintained, and what better place than an outdoor dining room,” said Obie Companies Vice President and COO Casey Barrett. “We’re excited to work with the City of Eugene to produce the 5th Ave. Weekend strEATery in support of local businesses and welcome our friends and families to enjoy an entire block of open-air and outdoor seating where people can meet while social distancing. From live music to pop-up shops and performances, we look forward to a summer of safe activities for all to enjoy.”
The Fifth Avenue Streatery is the latest example of different ways the City of Eugene is trying to help local employers survive the pandemic-caused recession. Other temporary measures in downtown have made it easier for businesses to:
- Conduct outdoor exercise classes in public spaces
- Use publicly owned sidewalks and parking spaces for outdoor dining
- Serve takeout and pickup customers with free curbside parking spaces
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a real threat to the survival of many locally-owned downtown businesses, which requires us to think of new ways to support them,” said the City’s Downtown Manager Eric Brown. “We urge you to shop and dine downtown to help these businesses through the recovery.”
The Fifth Avenue Streatery is Eugene’s second recent block-long street closure. In July, the City closed Broadway between Willamette and Olive streets so adjacent restaurants, bars and brewpubs could expand their premises outdoors. The closures are permitted through October 31.
Party Downtown co-owner Mark Kosmicki said the outlook for his restaurant on West Broadway had been bleak. However, sales have more than tripled since the street was closed. “It’s been a lifeline and a lifesaver,” he said of the Broadway Streatery. “It gives us a chance for success.”
Claim 52 Kitchen on Willamette Street was the first to receive a Streatery permit in May. So far, 15 downtown restaurants have received permits.
New Ways to Use Public Spaces
In early August, the Downtown Athletic Club began offering something unusual – outdoor exercise and spin classes. An agreement with the City allows the club to use the upper levels of the adjacent Overpark public parking garage for exercise classes. The City also permitted the DAC to offer spin sessions on the public sidewalk in front of the Willamette Street athletic club.
Having a nearby place to conduct exercise classes “meant a lot, because as an urban club we don’t have outdoor space immediately adjacent to us,” said DAC owner Rob E. Bennett. “We have a long-term relationship with the City. The DAC has been in business for 35 years, and the relationship with the City that has been built over the decades has helped us in many ways. This is a good example of that.”
The free classes, called “DAC Outdoors,” are being offered until Sept. 7. Contact the DAC for more information, 541-484-4011, or by email to email@example.com.
For information about: