Downtown Eugene: The Quintessential Melting Pot

If you were to spend an afternoon walking around Eugene, you would see that this entire city’s zany, sporadic and unique traits can all be manifested into one place: downtown. With its wide range of businesses, be it the impossible-to-miss pink building home to Voodoo Doughnuts or the sleek and modern structure that we know as the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, downtown is definitely not lacking in versatility and things to do and see. When asked about what she thinks makes downtown unique, Lauren Eilers, a former preschool teacher and now a mother of two, she said the busyness.

Eilers says her favorite downtown spots include The Eugene Public Library and Skinner's Butte.

“It’s fun, I like it,” she said. “During the day, I think downtown is pretty clean and busy, and like, family friendly. At night there’s a great music scene.”

While the hustle and bustle of city areas often gets a bad rap for violence, crime, and just overall seemingly-shady people, some residents seem to not feel threatened in the slightest. Lily Leach, employee at Voodoo Doughnuts, says that she’s lived in scarier places, such as her hometown of Los Angeles.

“I don’t really find it to be a problem,” she explains. “There are like, late at night, kind of weird stuff that goes on, but that’s just part of living in the city and working downtown. Sometimes I get off and it’s midnight and it’s just me on my bike. It can be dangerous for a girl to do that in any city anywhere. It’s just a risk you take.”

However Eugene’s reputation for being extremely ethnically diverse and multicultural holds true.

“Out of all the cities I’ve ever known, it’s actually really diverse,” said Robert Aiken, a cook at Lane Community College. “You wouldn’t expect to see two guys holding hands, two girls making out, or some lady walking around topless… you look at it and think, ‘eh, it’s Eugene dude, get used to it’,” he laughs. “It’s downtown.”

There have also been many developments in the downtown area during the last 30 years, including the building of the Hult Center in 1982, the Eugene Public Library in 1993, and most recently the Inn at the Fifth in April 2012. Views on whether to expand downtown and increase infrastructure or to maintain its current status are mixed.

The Hult Center for the Performing Arts is Eugene's hub for both theatrical and musical performance acts.

“ Sometimes it does kind of feel like [Voodoo Doughnuts is] this island,” Leach explains. “There’s like apartments and everything but downtown is weird because it’s supposed to be a commercial district. I just don’t really feel that. Some of the newer developments are cool, but it’s a transition time.”

Located on Willamette and Broadway, Voodoo Doughnuts is definitely the most vibrant building on the block.

On the other side, Aiken argues that there’s nothing wrong with downtown as it is now. “Sometimes change can be a bad thing. Sometimes people take it to extremes. The old cliché is ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’.  Naturally, things will change when it gets time for it to change.”

Ultimately, downtown Eugene is known for its colorful people, both in ethnic backgrounds and personalities, local businesses and art and just overall energy.

Local art, such as this statue in front of the Eugene Public Library, contributes to the uniqueness of downtown and also serves as familiar landmarks for tourists.

“Buildings change, some don’t, but there’s always a wide spectrum of different people,” Aiken said. “The scenery never changes if you just sit down and watch.”

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