Located prominently along the banks of the Willamette River, and anchored at the southern end of the Downtown Riverfront site, the Steam Plant is an iconic representation of our community’s history and is ripe with possibility for the future. Currently, a local team of community leaders has created a vision for how the Steam Plant could be re-purposed and revitalized.
We heard loud and clear that the majority of Eugene community members value the Steam Plant as a place for the creation and enjoyment of art. When given a choice between specific types of art experiences, our community survey indicated a rather strong desire for a space that is flexible and adaptive. We value a space that will not constrain the potential of what art can be, what one can experience, or who gets to create it.
An open call to local and regional artists can supply the Steam Plant with an ongoing calendar of temporary art exhibits, installations, and performance events. Because the most impactful art is often created by new or unexpected experiences and interactions, an adaptive space at the Steam Plant will be dedicated to inspiring and hosting new art by and for our community. The unique qualities of the space will invite and challenge artists to produce work that will enhance the building’s public realm
An outdoor overlook connects the building to the future adjacent Riverfront Park and the river without impeding the bike path.
“Community members will be able to walk through the building and stand out over the water while having lunch or a beverage. The building’s fifth story and river overlook provide ample space to appreciate the surrounding natural landscape,” said Mark Frohnmayer.
Downtowns and neighborhoods are changing. Young creative entrepreneurs and downsizing retirees are moving to locations where they do not have to rely on a car to meet their daily needs. In order to support the increasing desire for a more walkable lifestyle, Eugene’s downtown and neighborhoods need to provide new environments with active, interesting restaurants and retail, and vibrant places that inspire people to work and collaborate on new ideas.
The Steam Plant’s unique proximity to the University of Oregon, Downtown, and the river provides an opportunity to build a knowledge transfer bridge, further knitting the scholarly community with Eugene’s emerging technology and entrepreneurship clusters.
The renovated Steam Plant will provide the foundation for this new walk-able live/learn/work neighborhood. The ground floor will be open to the river, drawing the public in for art, music, food, and drink. We see the upper levels of the building as comprising a mix of co-working, community and university classes, venture incubation for early stage startups, and established anchor tenants. Tenants on these floors will include entrepreneurs, artists, founders, freelancers, remote workers, small business owners, digital creatives, makers – both students and professionals.
All of these individuals and organizations will be able to lease flexible desks, studios, or office space and reserve flexible conference rooms and classrooms on an as-needed basis. A portion of the square footage may also be dedicated to maker spaces and/or dry labs for the University of Oregon.
This flexible-use model will maximize the ability for the working community to participate in the space and will also be the fiscal foundation that makes the Steam Plant redevelopment project financially feasible.
Finally, we are recruiting potential anchor partners for portions of these spaces. The project team is in dialogue with the University of Oregon about a multidisciplinary leadership institute. As University President Emeritus Dave Frohnmayer wrote, “Leadership theory can be taught and learned, and the enterprise is supremely worthwhile.” This leadership institute would establish opportunities for Eugene’s community members to learn leadership, not as an inherent privilege of the few, but as a set of skills necessary for all people to work more effectively together.
The Steam Plant redevelopment will be built to succeed long-term. It will be flexible, resilient, and able to adapt over time, as new markets and new demographics emerge. It will be a place to learn and work, designed to bring people together, in a building that inspires them and supports innovation of all flavors.