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.
3 days ago