Downtown Eugene puts pits in past

EUGENE, Ore. - Remember the bad old days?

Downtown Eugene used to be home to gaping holes in the ground, barely hidden behind chain link fences.

The twin pits - one across the street from the Eugene Public Library, the other at Willamette and Broadway in the heart of downtown - stood as symbols of what was wrong with downtown Eugene.

That was then. This is now.

"If you would have asked several of us in 2007, 'Would we be where we are today?' I think the most optimistic among us would say yes, but it's been a bit of a journey," said David Hauser with the Eugene Chamber of Commerce.

Hauser said if you add up all the projects of the past 4 years, you're talking about $200 million in private and public investment.

A partial list of success stories includes the Broadway Commerce Center, the Inn at the 5th, Titan Court/LCC Downtown, and the Woolworth Building.

Add to that list 20 new retail businesses that didn't exist 3 years ago.

"Both of us in our mission statement really wanted to be part of our community and really part of supporting Eugene and supporting the revitalization of downtown," said Nicole Gillson, one of the owners of Plume Red and Heritage Dry Goods. "We can really bring back Eugene to being a wonderful place to be."

It's not over yet.

Near the federal courthouse, work has begun on the $20 million new headquarters for North West Community Credit Union.

"That brings us again closer to the river," said Denny Braud, development analyst with the City of Eugene. "The next phase really is the EWEB property."

Then there's the unused operations property EWEB plans to sell for future development.

And just this week, Lane County reached a 99-year lease deal with a development led by Brian Obie, the former Eugene mayor behind the 5th Street Market and Inn at the 5th.