Building owner wants to buy alley across from jail, block access

EUGENE, Ore. - When the Lane County Jail releases inmates, some of the former prisoners cross the street and walk into Carpe Diem pilates studio.

They aren't looking for a workout, said Haley Healey, one of the studio's owners.

"This particular person threatened the receptionist," Healey recalled. The unwanted visitor then pushed items off the front desk onto the floor.

Another inmate-turned-pilates studio interloper threatened to hit the receptionist with a cane.

Staff now tell the inmates to just go away, please.

And when they do, they head for a nearby alley to hang out.

Neighboring businesses see the alley across from the jail as a safety risk, but the owners of the property also see it as a key to future development.

"It's directly across from the jail, so you do get - let's just say a fair amount of challenges with people using that alley," said Thomas Herrmann, an attorney at Gleaves and Sweringen who is representing landloard Carlton Simons.

Simons wants to buy the alley from the city for $36,000 in an exchange known as a "vacation." The City would sell the alley to the adjacent property owner, with some caveats, including access for any electric, water or other utilities that run through the alley.

If the agreement moves forward, Simmons would close off public access to the alley and examine the potential for future development.

His attorney, Hermann, said if not for the capacity based inmate releases from the budget-challenged jail, no one would be talking about the alley.

"The key piece is improving the developability of the property," he said, "and ancillary benefit is improving public safety."