Enterprise Stories

Greenways: A New Path in the Right Direction 

The train may not be the first place one would think of to meet various people from city councils within Washington and Oregon or an activism group from Seattle but indeed, this is where these people were, on their way to a meeting in Vancouver, Canada to discuss the nature of “Greenways” and to change the definition of the word street.

So what are “Greenways”? According to Sally Bagshaw of the Seattle City Council they are “the residential neighborhoods that connect parks, schools, businesses and city transits.” Some of these ‘Greenways” already exist however many of us know them simply as residential roads. The purpose behind this train ride for these members of city council and public transit is to change how these are viewed and to change what they are used for. New Greenways are being built to provide the public better alternative sources of transportation to various places in the city, as I have listed above.

Vancouver, Canada has now become a leader in the development and implementation of these Greenways and now members of council from cities like Portland, Seattle and Kirkland have set out to go speak with members of city council from Vancouver to figure out how to begin discourse within their own cities and to learn how their own Greenways have worked within Vancouver.

Bill LaBorde, a Legislative assistant at the office of Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen said “We [Seattle] are a growing city, we don’t have space for more cars…We are behind on transportation but we are starting to catch up.” The situation is becoming pressing. If Seattle doesn’t allow a larger capacity for public transportation, it simply will not be able to support its own growth. LaBorde went on to say “We want more transportation capacity without more gas emissions, runoff into Puget Sound and air pollution.”

Also on this trip is Greg Raisman Traffic Safety Program Specialist for Portland, Oregon. So far, Portland has also been very progressive when it comes to these Greenways. They have successfully passed a new law that sets a twenty mile and hour speed limit on residential streets so that residents and other members of the city can feel more comfortable using these streets as alternative forms of getting around the city.

David Godfrey, Transportation Engineering Manager for the city of Kirkland said “We really want to start public discourse on public safety like why it’s important for kids to be able to walk and bike to school. People want different things but the solution comes down to the same infrastructure.” In order to do this, they need to raise awareness and while in Vancouver, they are hoping to get some ideas on how they have done things so as to better start the process in their own town.

Though Seattle has already implemented two Greenways within its city and is already beginning on its third, the public awareness of them is still not there. LaBorde said “We are hoping to adopt a plan by September and have a budget in action by November…Vancouver will provide a lot of positive lessons on things like initial outreach as well as things not to do.”

The idea of Greenways again is simply to provide a way to get around the city that doesn’t involve the bus, a car, or a taxi. And, according to Paulo Nunes-Ueno Director of Transportation and Sustainability for the Seattle Children’s Hospital, people are wanting these alternative forms of transportation. However, there is some push-back.   Nunes-Ueno said that the wealthier area of Seattle where Bill Gates grew up and where his sister still lives located near the Seattle Children’s Hospital, is not completely for this kind of growth and for more foot or bike traffic to move through their area. Because of its close proximity to the Children’s Hospital, the addition of Greenways to this area would indeed provide a solid route for alternative transportation, but would also increase the traffic in and around the neighborhood.

Though there is this push-back from this sector of the community against the Greenways, Nunes-Ueno said “There is common ground between what we want and what they want…livability.” Nunes-Ueno said that when the question was framed to this part of Seattle’s community as ‘what would make life better?’ many residents cared about sustaining the level of livability that they currently had and to sustain the level transportation that exists within the city. To do this, the Greenways are a necessity to Seattle as a growing metropolis. “Many of them care more about this kind of stuff than they are afraid of their neighborhood being ‘destroyed’” said Nunes-Uneno.

According to Raisman, the way to go about implementing the use and construction of Greenways within cities is to change the way that people look at residential roads and communities. As Bagshaw said “Roads are not just for cars.” The effort that was made in Portland by people like Raisman when they began the construction and raising awareness of Greenways was to change the way that people thought of these roads – being not just for cars, but for also for people to use.

Caron LeMay with Kirkland Greenways said “When I was little, I played ball” of residential streets within communities. For Greenways to be present in the forefront of residents’ minds and for these Greenways to be used, the change in thinking back to roads as a way for bike and foot traffic needs to come about again. It is crucial that accessibility to areas such as parks, businesses, hospitals, and other areas remain accessible to the public as populations rise in these large cities like Seattle, Portland and Kirkland.

Dave Rodgers principle SvR said “Though we still have push-back it’s important to have a healthy debate and do what the majority wants to do, that’s democracy.” With the concept of Greenways, the trip to Vancouver will in hopes display results that will shape the opinion of residents in cities throughout both Oregon and Washington thus showing that Greenways are something that does in fact work by providing better access to many regions of a city and are low cost for the city itself as many potential Greenways already exist as residential roads only needing a few changes such as speed limit caps and bike lanes.

Greenways will push to bring about a change in consciousness by altering how we view streets as well as communities. These are not just places and things, they have the potential to be modes through which people can get to places that may have not been accessible before and also places where people can come together and become active within their own neighborhoods and communities. With the introduction of Greenways into a city, we may see more than just new paths and places to go. We may see a change in the way cities and communities interact withe each other as a whole and a change in the way people communicate with each other.

Passion and Opportunity

How a man realized he was in the right place at the right time

In downtown Eugene, Oregon, there is a place painted brick red with black boarders and windows that allow possible patrons to peer at the insides of the establishment. The lighting is dim giving a softness to the scene behind the glass while creating a mysteriousness, not giving away too much, enticing people from the streets to come in and take a better look. Upon first entering, polished tables and booths are encountered but farther back, a long bar of the same polished wood extends across the length of the building. This is The Davis Restaurant and Bar and Tom Kamis is the proud owner.

It’s hard to believe that only six short years ago, The Davis was a Chinese restaurant struggling to survive but Kamis informed me that indeed, before converting it to The Davis, it had been just that.

Kamis’s experience within the restaurant business began in Chicago at an establishment called “The Baseline” at the age of fifteen. Though Kamis was not legally allowed to work at this time, he slipped his way in by tacking on an extra year himself in an attempt to work his way into the restaurant business. “I began by washing dishes and bussing tables,” said Kamis “then I began to work in the kitchens.” From there he worked at “Solomio” a fine dining restaurant also located in Chicago. “That’s where I learned a lot about food and wine…I loved it.”

These jobs however were secondary to what Kamis was initially doing in Chicago: acting. “That’s [acting] how you make money in Chicago.”  For years Kamis trained as a part of Second City Theater Group where eventually he was offered the opportunity to do a theater tour. The tour encompassed twenty different cities and eventually, Kamis found himself in Oregon. “I originally wanted to live in Ashland but my girlfriend then was from Eugene so that’s were I went” said Kamis.

It is here that Kamis realized that he wanted to begin a new career path not just as a worker in a restaurant, but as the owner of such an establishment. “It was more of a process realizing that I wanted to do something like this” said Kamis. Before buying the building and turning it into The Davis, Kamis had lived in downtown Eugene for the better part of twelve years. However as he saw the chance to do something new he “jumped on the opportunity”. “I saw the potential for downtown Eugene six years ago” said Kamis.

From acting in Chicago to owning a successful restaurant and bar in Eugene, Oregon, Kamis had certainly made a career jump. According to Kamis, along with his process of experience in the restaurant business, “it was all timing”.

Some of the bigger draws of owning his own business prior to experiencing it Kamis informed me was to be able to interact with people and “to have more creative control and to see if my ideas could really work.” As The Davis attracts many customers, it would seem that Kamis’s prior experience in the restaurant business, his drive to stand on his own, and his recognition of the potential of downtown Eugene have all proven that Kamis’s ideas have the ability to generate funds to support himself and his business. Unfortunately for Kamis however, business owning came with more paper work than he had thought. “I spend about 73 percent of my time in the back doing paperwork” said Kamis.

Though the jump from acting to restruaunteering is a large one, Kamis said that his family was entirely supportive with this decision and that his sister comes to visit all of the time. For Kamis, the leg into this sector of business-owning was a combination of opportunity and following his prior passion, acting, to a place where early on, Kamis saw the potential for downtown Eugene to become a hub of activity.

If he weren’t doing this, Kamis said he would be traveling and pursuing another dormant passion: photography. However for now, Kamis sits smiling from behind the handsome polished bar looking anything but discontent.

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