Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Urban Bend Corridor

I noticed the City of Bend has put the Urban Corridor plans on hold.

Let's put it this way: I'm not surprised.

I used to watch the grandiose plans discussed on the local cable access channel and wonder how they thought they could pull it off. I'm not against redeveloping the Third Street access to downtown, Greenwood and Franklin. It could use the help. But I thought -- as someone who actually has a business on the corner of 3rd and Greenwood, that they were pretty cavalier toward existing businesses.

Like saying to a homesteader -- "Hey, I think it's great that you fought off the elements for the last few years and staked your future on an uncertain time and place -- but we had something more impressive in mind."

Here's the thing. They weren't just talking about an urban tax district, no they were talking about a grand, unified plan under their control.

Downtown Bend, in contrast, became a vibrant area again because of an urban tax district that didn't cost the taxpayers nothin' and which was used over a long period of time. But mostly it was brought back by one business owner and one building owner at a time. Organically, if you will. Naturally. (Though there was nothing inevitable about it, though it may seem that way now.) I remember many times when it was nip and tuck.

But it was driven from inside, mostly, and not some grand plan from the outside.

But most importantly, Downtown is a relatively small area. The Urban Corridor they're talking about, in contrast, is huge. It was going to be magnitudes more expensive and tougher. Not a simple matter of turning Bond and Wall into one way streets, for instance, but actually narrowing the streets, landscaping them, and turning one traffic flow into 3 or 4. With hundreds of businesses affected -- businesses that may not be glamorous in the city council's eyes, but functional businesses nevertheless.

The danger I saw was that they'd drive away modest and functional businesses in exchange for fancier and more expensive types of businesses that aren't going to get the kind of business they need.

But there was a chance that all they'd succeed in doing is creating a empty, soulless urban concept. It isn't just cosmetics that keeps that area of Bend from thriving. It also has to do with traffic flows. And I'm sorry I just don't buy the idea that planting more trees and narrowing the streets and whatever is going to significanly increase the foot traffic enough to make a difference.

In other words, they'll attempt to get the traffic flow diffused, and the trade-off is supposed to be that people will walk and bike more. But what I see are two roads, Greenwood and Franklin, that people use to get from the east side to the west side; and one big road, 3rd Street, that people use to get from the north to south, and I don't see that really changing.

It reminds me of the big plans they had 30 years ago about turning Downtown Bend into an outdoor mall. It look mighty impressive in the drawings.

But ask Eugene and Coos Bay how THAT turned out. Downtown Bend is thriving and vibrant partly because of the traffic. People complain, but the more the traffic the more the business.

And as a business owner, it seems to me the bottomline is how the businesses are doing, not how many flowerpots there are.


Jeff said...

I work at a place where they've narrowed the streets, restricted cars, and greatly enlarged the sidewalks and bike lanes.

But it's a university. There was already a lot of foot traffic.

Long ago -- before there were shopping malls on the outskirts of town -- downtowns use to thrive with foot traffic AND cars.

If it worked then (1950s) why can't it work now as well?

There are two many things that can go wrong with a huge new master plan -- downtowns arose organically 100 years ago -- the main is to have stores that stock stuff people can afford.

Zoomie said...

Hi Dunc,

Did something happen to the Bend Economy Board?

Also Lived in various towns and cities that have revitalized the downrtown areas. It works best if done oer time and hads good concepts with inovation after they find what works. Most of the time don't rtear down just make it look better with some good parking and foot and auto traffic in the rightr places not necessarily together,


Duncan McGeary said...

BEBB was hacked, apparently.

Yeah, I don't think you can wave a magic wand, or just throw money at it.

People who are big proponents of the free market, seem to want to rewrite the rules when it comes to urban planning.

BilboBend said...

Bend-Lapine School District - Bart

son: "Mom are we losers?"

mom: "Where the fuck did you hear that?"

son: "School, the kids say that a middle age guy thats rent a home is a loser, and that make dad a loser"

mom: "No son, we're winners, homer tells us so"

son: "What you mean mom?"

mom: "Remember the Bend prayer, I tell you every night", "The baby jeebus loves us so, because homer tells us so"

son: "Mom, the kids at the school say that homer is a false prophet, that he is leading his lemmings off the financial cliff"

mom: "Oh, no Homer has an MBA."

son: "The kids say that buster says that they should buy a home when they're young, so they can have it paid off by the time their forty."

mom: "That buster is full of shit, Homer tells so.", "Its ok to be a renter until your say 80, then you live in a poorhouse, and die"

son: "But mom, what happens to us, if you go to live at the poorhouse?"

mom: "Homer hasn't told us yet, but I'm sure he has a plan for all of us"

son: "Buster says that Homer is a POVERTY-PIMP, that people who buy into his proselytizing will become perpetual losers, and there children such, and the poverty cycle will never end"

mom: "Son, money isn't everything, we're all a family here, this is Bend we're exceptional. I'm sure all of Homers flock we'll be sharing the little food we have when times get really tough"

son: "So self reliance is completely thrown out the window? We're basically in the lines at the gallows waiting for homer to tell us what to do?"

mom: "Homer tells us that the baby-jeebus works in strange ways"

son: "I'm getting the hell out of Bend, and I'm going to buy a house, and pay it off on a 15yr fixed, and I'm not going to raise my children to be part of an endless poverty cycle"

mom: "Son your speaking blasphemy, do you realize that Homer could have us excommunicated from his flock for such talk"

son: "Fuck Homer, he's a loser"

[ All heard by Bart ]