Jefferson Westside Neighbors Say “No” to Capstone

A new student complex has been proposed for 13th Avenue, between Willamette and Olive Street, but not everyone believes in giving a break to the developers. Residents of the Jefferson Westside Neighborhood were not happy about the proposed 10-year tax exemption for the Capstone student housing development.

Former Jefferson Westside Neighbors Chair, Paul Conte, gave a presentation to the Jefferson Westside Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday, May 8th.  Conte is a member of the Eugene Citizen Advisory Team (CAT), which has been researching the Capstone project extensively. The Capstone complex is expected to hold 350-375 units and house 1,200 students.

Paul Conte explains his research on the Capstone Project

Current Chair of the Jefferson Westside Neighbors, Stephen Heider, believes the project will negatively affect his neighborhood. “We would likely see poor traffic flow, as more people start taking cars through the bike-prioritized routes such as 12th street. We would also likely see some overspill of the kinds of nighttime student affairs such as already plague the neighborhoods around the University of Oregon. No disrespect, as I am an alum, but without strict rules in place, such as the City neglected to implement, the Capstone project is likely to end up as a tenement project, once the developers rake in their cash and split town,” Heider said.

On Wednesday the Eugene City Council will vote on project MUPTE, a 10-year tax exemption for the Capstone developers. If passed the developers would avoid around $1 million dollars a year in taxes.

“Granting a tax exemption for only seven years (rather than 10) would still provide Capstone their desired 9 percent return. The extra three years of unnecessary exemption will take over $3 million dollars from local tax revenues and give Capstone on the Wall Street investors that money as a ‘bonus’ in excess profit,” Conte commented in reference to a Register Guard article that argued for the MUPTE exemption.

Conte cautioned JWN residents against allowing the developers the full 10 years. He believes that the Capstone project can succeed with a seven-year tax exemption and each additional year will be costly to tax payers.

Conte also discussed his frustrations with the way this project had been presented. Conte felt the Eugene City Council had pushed the project along too quickly for residents to understand what was going on.

Another member expressed that the entire project was driven by money with no concern for what the neighborhood actually wanted.

Conte referenced a similar Capstone project in Tempe, Arizona near the Arizona State University Campus as an example of a better relationship between the developers and community. He believed the Tempe project was successful but “the project is different here,” he said.

Conte and members of the JWN Neighborhood Association discuss the project

Heider agrees that the Eugene project is taking a different route. “It’s conceivable that the managers will fulfill the kind of project that they left in Tempe, AZ – where the neighborhoods apparently love the way the units are managed. But that simply remains to be seen,” said Heider. “The shame is that if more of our city councilors were as thorough as George Brown, this project would have had sound measures included to ensure that Eugene would benefit from a healthy addition to housing options downtown. Instead we are left with the odds stacked against it.”

In other business, at Tuesday’s meeting the two candidates for the Eugene Water and Electric Board position came to introduce themselves and answer questions. Discussion of changing speed limits on Polk Street and ways to make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly also ensued when two members of the city council asked the residents for input.

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