Imagining an Improved River Road

State and city planning goals addressed by the actions recommended in this section:

  • Economic Opportunities
  • Affordable Housing
  • Climate Change
  • Energy Resilience
  • Compact Urban Development
  • Efficient Transportation Options
  • Neighborhood Livability
  • Natural Resources

River Road was once far more walkable. In earlier days, Eugene had a dozen round trip trains a day to Portland and River Road hosted grocery stores, a hardware store and other useful places to shop.

Currently, the River Road Corridor is host to many challenges. It’s ugly, too much traffic moves too fast, it’s a barrier to pedestrians and cyclists, it’s short on businesses providing basic needs that the surrounding neighborhood would benefit from. It also interferes with east west movement of wildlife.

Even still, the corridor has great potential to help achieve many important state and local planning goals. With an awareness for current trends, smart design, incentives, mindful policies and code, River Road could attract economic development that can reduce vehicle miles traveled, create jobs, improve public health and build community, to name only a few.

The corridor could host at least two primary commercial nodes:

  • South of Rasor Park, where there are currently large expanses of empty concrete.
  • The two or three blocks north and south of Hilliard.

The nodes could be sites to accommodate multi-story development with neighborhood friendly commercial stores and services below with residential above. This type of development would be a huge move towards a walkable neighborhood.

Mixed use development

New Development Facilitates Less Cars and Aging in Neighborhood

New commercial nodes can be designed for both people who want a lifestyle less dependent on cars and Baby Boomers who want to downsize, stay in the neighborhood and live in a more social and walkable location. Purposeful development with commercial below and residential above can accomplish many goals and ideals.

Mixed Use Illustration

Walkable mixed-use development illustration.

Mindful design could provide amenities for people who would like to drive less as well as support for people who want to go car free and couples who would like to transition from two cars to one.

Mindful design could also attract baby boomers who want to downsize their lifestyles but stay in the neighborhood and who would even like a more social and cooperative aspect to their lives.

Several important design amenities could attract both groups. One is turning River Road into a Bus Rapid Transit corridor. Another is promoting the benefits of access to the West Bank Bike Path and site design that includes features that facilitate car free a living and more social design to potential residents.

The apartments could offer excellent bike facilities and easy access to the bike path. Renters could receive LTD (EmX) bus passes. There could be Zip cars on site. The development could also include work spaces and facilities at modest cost for residents who don’t need to commute. Renters who don’t have a car could pay less rent.

A system of incentives could encourage this kind of development such as incentives for including these kinds of car free features and rewards for exceeding reduced car use performance goals. Developers could help pay for car free amenities and enhance income through extra rent earned by trading unneeded parking lot space for more apartments.


EMX bus rapid transit

To attract boomers aging “in neighborhood,” amenities might include co-housing, Zip Cars, garden space, common social space, access to special needs, space for arts and crafts, shared tools, and bus passes.

Multi-Unit Property Tax Exemption (MUPTE) or similar mechanism might also be used as a development incentive. Property taxes could be adjusted as a function of meeting goals relating to numbers of cars and even storm water and wastewater goals.

Note – Oregon Metro has grant funding available for public transit oriented development that could create a large incentive for developers to design for car free people. The West Bank Bike Path plus BRT and additional alternatives to cars design features could pioneer lower eco-footprint development that aligns with many city and state land use and quality of life goals.

Another green feature for new apartments along the corridor would be garden space for residents or, making garden space available on public property in the greenway.

Note – Mel Bankoff’s well known upscale and very nicely designed development in Friendly Neighborhood shows there is interest in more eco-friendly cooperative living. River Road’s version could be much more affordable.

Gresham’s Rockwood Rising redevelopment is of a scale a good bit too large for River Road but has much to offer as a model with commercial below, affordable residential above, a public plaza, kid space, and a food court. River Road could top Rockwood with the bike path, bus service and other amenities for living without a car.

With strong citizen involvement and support along with effective City resources, the River Road corridor can be transformed into a neighborhood asset with useful shops and higher density residential. A plan that’s ambitious and believable will attract the interest of investors.

The River Road Neighborhood Plan can help bring about a green and resilient corridor in River Road with tweaks to code and regulations in regard to parking, MUPTE, storm and waste water.

Other Comments

River Road and Santa Clara have important agricultural assets. Facilitating food production within the neighborhoods on both private and public land should be encouraged. Also helpful would be an inventory of public land to assess where food production might take place.

The RR/SC Neighborhood Plan should encourage food production in both neighborhoods.


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