EWEB moves to Fourth Avenue

The Eugene Water & Electric Board is in the process of moving the majority of its operation departments from its existing riverfront headquarters to a building with more updated facilities on Roosevelt Boulevard in West Eugene.

As the utilities provider moves into the new building, named the Roosevelt Operations Center, it has opened the discussion with the city government of what to do with the remaining property. EWEB controls the process to find a use for this riverside property, called the “master plan,” which will be presented to the EWEB board before heading to the Eugene City Council in the summer of 2010.

“Our main focus in this project is connectivity,” said EWEB Property and Project Manager Mark Oberle. “This property is the only connection between the Willamette River and downtown Eugene, and EWEB is currently blocking the interaction linking the two.”

In the move, EWEB leaves behind the bulk of a 27-acre property, consisting mostly of aged, inefficient buildings and wide expanses of gravel and pavement.

The most valuable building EWEB is deserting is an early industrial-era steam plant, filled with sturdy and functional but outdated generators, engines, and various other steam producers.

Oberle said EWEB is hoping to cut off its steam business before the November 2010 move to the Roosevelt Center.

An architecture team from Rowell Brokaw Architects and the Community Advisory Team have been in the process of talking to a wide variety of community members about what they would like to see in the soon-to-be evacuated space.

“There has been a lot of talk about turning the steam plant building into a brew pub,” EWEB spokesperson Joe Harwood said on a Tuesday tour of the facilities. In addition, the possibility of converting the empty lot to a public park or community-housing complex has been raised.

The University Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Living Co-Director Alden Gray said that he could see the area being used for a combined apartment and local shopping area.

“My biggest concern as that they don’t put a bunch of one-story buildings down there like they did in Eugene during the whole urban renewal phase,” Gray said.

The master plan will officially open to public discussion at a 6 p.m. meeting and tour on Wednesday at the current facility.

“This discussion will be great for all different segments of the community,” Oberle said. “It’s a little scary but mostly exciting to form a community-accepted vision that the majority of the public can get behind.” At the meeting, the public will be taken on a tour of the property that will be vacated followed by an open discussion forum.

Kaarin Knudson, the Project Manager from Rowell Brokaw, said she had never worked with such a community-included design process.

“Working with the community is one of the things I enjoy most about being an architect,” Knudson said. “It’s great that we can have them on site to see the property themselves and absorb the constraints the site faces.” Such constraints include railroad tracks and underground piping and utility hardware.

While the majority of EWEB’s headquarters will be moved to the Roosevelt Center, EWEB will keep its administrative department, the most modern of the facilities, an electrical sub-station and various utilities buildings that will eventually be transferred to the West Eugene site.

After the Wednesday meeting, the master plan team will collaborate both the community’s and its own ideas to form a presentation for the EWEB board in November.

“I hear of so many city master plans that end up sitting on the shelf,” Oberle said. “We want this one to be overwhelmingly successful for the both public and the city.”

City & state politics

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