Public Propery Development Across From Ecco Apartments


River Road Low Income Housing Design Proposal

Cameron Ewing, Ravi Logan, Clare Strawn, Jon Belcher


Accross From ECCO

The City of Eugene is in the process of buying a property on River Road to develop as low-income housing. The City has invited community participation in the planning process. Community members, including board members of the River Road Community Organization and the Prout Institute, embrace this opportunity to proactively create an innovative development that enhances the existing community and furthers city goals to house low-income residents and increase density.

Our view is that these objectives are not contradictory but provide creative opportunities to model ecological and socially sustainable design. The intention of this document is to urge planners and developers to adopt an innovative framework for this development that goes beyond existing practices and invests in a showcase of possibilities. We hope to create a development that the City of Eugene can be proud of and that the River Road community will embrace as an asset.

Property Across from ECCO

Property across from ECCO

We believe that a whole systems design – that integrates housing with ecological sustainability, nurtures residents’ personal investment in their homes with building community within the development and with its neighbors, and supports property use to support economic development — will pay off in long and short term benefits. For example, while some of our proposed design parameters are initially more expensive, manufacturers of innovative materials may be attracted to investing in the project as a demonstration model. And up front investments in quality will provide returns over time in energy and water savings. Avoiding less expensive cookie-cutter design will give the project character that increases the care and sense of ownership by tenants and helps integrate them into the existing community. Incorporating community space into the development – e.g., gardens and a meeting space – would offer useful resources to the residents and neighborhood and build social capital that increases quality of life.

Below we offer six overarching objectives to guide the design process and a discussion of design criteria that are informed by leading-edge architectural concepts.

Guiding Design Objectives

  1. High-Performing Housing
    This housing project should to be not only affordable but, so much as feasible, high performing in terms of energy efficiency, aesthetic quality, and functionality.
  2. Emergency Preparedness / Resilience
    The housing project should not only be structurally sound to withstand extreme seismic events, but designed to provide for basic life support following a natural disaster.
  3. Low or Positive Environmental Impact
    Environmental concerns that should be considered in the project design include: minimizing the carbon footprint of building operation, minimizing the embodied energy in building materials, minimizing use of toxic building materials, providing for rainwater catchment, reducing need for landscape irrigation, and supporting pollinators.
  4. Enhance Immediate Community and Integrate with Broader Community
    The project should include design features that enhance a sense of community among the residents, as well as foster integration of residents into the larger River Road community.
  5. On Site Economic Opportunities
    Design features should be integrated that provide on site economic opportunities and mutual self-help opportunities for the low-income residents of this housing project.
  6. Enhance Resident and Neighborhood Security
    Design features should be incorporated that promote security from theft, harm and harassment of both the immediate residents of the complex and of immediate neighbors.


Design Concept

To create a place that gives residents a sense of empowerment, fosters community, and connects to the existing community of River Road while cultivating the social, cultural and ecological resources of the community.

Click this image to enlarge the drawing.

Design Criteria

  1. Cultural Sustainability
    To enable residents of this project to connect economically and socially with the existing community of River Road, and to accommodate a diversity of demographics, from single parents to an elderly couple.
  2. Green Innovations
    To use as many green strategies as possible considering climate, budget, payback periods, and maintenance feasibility. [See Appendix 1]
  3. Personalization
    To intentionally leave aspects of design undeveloped so that residents can personalize their own spaces. This allows a diversity of character as well as personal investment in one’s own space, creating a sense of home rather than dwelling. This can be as simple as allowing residents to landscape their own gardens or paint their own interior spaces.
  4. Coalescent Space
    To arrange homes around a common, coalescent space to promote the interaction of residents and provide a space where the community can grow.
  5. Semi-Private Space
    To provide semi-private space that allows residents to extend a sense of ownership beyond the interior of their homes. Semi-private spaces are often arranged around a communal area and allow residents to look outward at communal area as a space that belongs to them as a member of the community. This eliminates confusion as to who the communal space belongs to and who it is to be maintained and enjoyed by.
  6. Diversity of Spaces
    To include a variety of spaces that are diverse in intended uses as well as shape and size. By shifting and rotating edges of the development footprint the negative spaces in-between the footprint becomes interesting and creates spaces that can host a variety of activities.
  7. Multi-use Spaces
    To make goods and services available on-site by supporting employment programs, small business, and home enterprise by residents. For example, a licensed community kitchen could provide facilities for producing value-added food products. A childcare space, a meeting room with community dining, and a physical fitness facility could create opportunities for residents to collaborate and learn from each other.  If possible work/live storefronts that employ residents could face River Road.
  8. Diversity in Character
    To fit in with River Road’s diverse neighborhood character. This project should avoid the temptation to standardize and repeat, as has been done in nearby developments. Such homogeneous projects are foreign to River Road’s diverse. Diversity in character can be achieved by personalization of imprintable spaces, as well as by creating variation of a repeated standard within a coherent whole.
  9. Open and Inviting
    To avoid hard architecture and unnecessary boundaries can allow residents to connect to their neighbors more easily, extending the sense of community beyond the area of the site. It will also assist in allowing ecological system to connect.
  10. Co-operative Management
    To enhance opportunity for development of skills, assets and empowerment of residents by supporting community self-management, as may be possible.
  11. Social Services
    To provide on-site social services, as appropriate and as needed. Examples would be daycare, after school programs, and skill development education.
  12. Pedestrian/Bike Path and Public Transit Connection
    To use the housing complex to connect the West Bank Park bike trail to the River Road bike trail, and to arrange close connection with public transit.
  13. Minimizing Impact
    To minimizing any negative impact of the housing project on existing adjacent residences. [See Appendix 2]


Appendix 1: List of Green Innovations and Features

  • thickened building envelope for insulation, sound reduction
  • solar orientation
  • light shelve and light wells
  • passive cooling
  • rainwater harvesting
  • natural daylighting
  • greywater system
  • low flow plumbing fixtures
  • energy efficient appliances and lighting fixtures
  • composting program
  • recycling program
  • connecting ecological systems
  • use of integrated systems
  • permeable paving and asphalt
  • native landscaping
  • integrated with community garden and on-site garden


Appendix 2: Factors for Minimizing Impact on Existing Adjacent Residences

  1. Site Access
    To minimize the impact of traffic on adjacent, narrow residential streets, vehicle access will be from River Road or the west end of East Maynard only.
  2. Setbacks
    There will be maximally reasonable setbacks from adjacent existing housing.
  3. Parking
    Parking can be located on periphery to maximize setbacks. Adequate parking will also be provided to minimize overflow onto adjacent streets.
  4. Building Heights
    Building heights will be compatible with adjacent housing.
  5. Balconies
    Balconies will be on inner facades, facing away from neighboring properties.
  6. Smoking Area
    If a non-smoking facility, a covered smoking area will be provided within the site.


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