Eugene’s monthly First Friday Art Walk was last Friday, March 1. The weather was clear and warm and the turnout was good. Every month, galleries, restaurants, and bars show off some of our area’s best art and it’s one of the things that makes Eugene such a fun place. We’re not Portland or San Francisco, but there are still plenty of talented artists around, and seeing cool art makes you look at the world a little bit differently.
The VA announced its location choice for the new Eugene Springfield area clinic, which is a major step. The 100,000 square foot clinic is expected to some 90,000 annual patient visits and employ 235 full time workers. This seems like a major benefit to Lane County and veterans. Many vets I know have to go to Roseburg for some treatments, and it can be a hardship. In a year or so, they can stay in Eugene.
Spending perhaps 75 Million dollars for construction will help our local economy. I think the bigger projects are less locally based than smaller ones, though. Still, any construction will help because construction was particularly hard hit during the Great Recession, and has yet to fully recover in Eugene Springfield.
Some vets choose a spot to retire based on the adequacy of VA facilities. My hunch is that more retirees will now choose Eugene Springfield because of our excellent hospitals and clinics. And, many of those 175 new workers will be house buyers which will help our real estate market.
Traffic congestion statistics were just released for the most recent year for which there’s data, 2011, and Eugene was one of the least congested small cities in the nation. Most residents already realize this and refer to our “rush-minute” instead of a rush-hour. Low traffic congestion is one of the many factors that contribute to a great quality of life in Eugene Springfield, Oregon.
The study of 101 urban areas is quite detailed, and perhaps the kind of thing only an urban planner or traffic scientist can fully understand and appreciate, but there are a few interesting trends about Eugene traffic that pop out.
Distance traveled per day: 3.5 Million miles
- We spend a little over an extra hour per month due to rush hour traffic, which was in the best 2% of the cities studied.
- Eugene was ranked as one of the least stressful cities due to commuter traffic, again in the best 2% of the cities studied. Portland, Oregon fared much worse and was ranked sixth worse for stress.
- Eugene was the best out of the 101 cities studied for the total annual cost of rush hour traffic, calculated to be $51 million dollars. For comparison, the worst study in the city, Los Angeles spends an extra $12.4 billion dollars per year due to rush hour traffic.
Is crime out of control? Not in Oregon, at least according to just released 2011 FBI statistics. Depending on which measurement is looked at Oregon’s cities are some of the safest in the country, which is, of course, a good thing. Low crime makes a location desirable, and desirability (demand) props up real estate prices.
So, what are the numbers for Eugene Springfield? Violent crimes and murders in particular are very low. Cities which are typically thought of as higher crime, like Detroit, MI, have murder rates over 40 times that of Eugene Springfield. Non violent crimes are higher in Eugene Springfield, but still less than average compared to the rest of the nation. Apparently bike theft is pretty bad because we’re such a target-rich environment. So, Eugene Springfield is very safe if you’re a person, and not so much if you’re a bike.
The FBI statistics cover Metropolitan Statistical Areas, which are generally over 50,000 people, and don’t look at smaller towns per se. So, they’re not the whole picture but I think a good overview of crime rates. Our rankings compared to about 370 other MSA’s are below.
Downtown Springfield the new hotspot? Maybe so.
Commercial property is interesting. Changes in rules & regulations or changes in traffic patterns can make the once lively die; or the slow and out of the way into the next hot spot. At one point in time, Sixth and Seventh streets in Eugene were part of Highway 99 which ran from Mexico to Canada. Properties along those streets were prime real estate, but that began to decline with the construction of I-5 in the early 1960’s when much north-south traffic bypassed Eugene entirely.
Similarly, the downtown core area of Springfield used to be the center of town and the most desirable place to be, but this was decades ago. What started the decline isn’t precisely clear, but increased ease of transportation and building of satellite shopping centers or malls didn’t help downtowns. At one point in time, downtown Springfield was the Gateway Mall of its day, and when I grew up here, the Gateway area was merely wet grasslands, laying fallow, bathed by the noise and exhaust of I-5. Time shows us nothing if not that things change. Gateway is hot. Downtown Springfield is on its way back up.
Mayor Christine Lundberg in her 2013 state of the City speech was very positive on Springfield’s possibilities and progress. She even joked that she’s looking forward to having a Logger Lager at the soon to be opened Planktown Brewery.
Probably the start of the Wildish Theater project in 2001 marked the beginning of Springfield’s renaissance. The 284 seat theater took 5 years to complete at a cost of some 3.2 million dollars. LTD opened it’s highly visible and cool looking transit facility in 2004, which gave the area a further boost.
Three downtown bars had their liquor licenses pulled and closed in 2010, which was said to improve things. One of the bars, Jim’s landing, had been in business since 1934 and there was always a bar in that location since the construction of the Fry and Rankin building in 1911. There was also a real estate office in the same building–hmm–sounds like a good idea to me. Neither I nor anyone I know thinks the closing of Jim’s Landing was a good idea. However, the area is on its way up, even if the wheels of progress are sometimes indiscriminate on what they roll over. The spot is for lease, and I’d be glad to show it to you if you have interest.
The Washburne Cafe opened kitty-corner to Jim’s Landing in 2010. The brainchild of Karen Hageman, a longtime area builder, it has a cool urban feel to it. I had breakfast there this morning and will definitely come back. The building was originally the Springfield Armory, built about 1921.
The Plank Town Brewery is a couple of doors down from The Washburne. The target opening date was last Fall, but they seem to be running a little behind. Plank Town is on the ground floor of the IOOF Building, which was built in 1907 for $10,995. The Oddfellows still occupy the second floor.
Buying and selling real estate in Eugene Springfield is never easy. Houses are big ticket items and getting it right is important. How do you get it right? I think the best way is to find a good Realtor who’s honest and understands the market. Bell Real Estate is 100% local and has been serving clients in Lane County for over 45 years. How do you stay in business that long? We think by doing it right.
Bell is a full service firm, probably best known for its property management, in which we’re a market leader. We also have Realtors, of whom I’m one, doing a brisk business buying and selling property for clients. If you have questions about buying or selling real estate in Lane County, I’d be glad to help.
Oregon is once again a popular spot to move to. United Van Lines reported that for two years running, Oregon was the second most popular state in the nation for inward migration. Atlas Van Lines also showed Oregon as a popular inward migration state.
Quality of life is probably one of the best reasons to live in Oregon. Being located midway between the Equator and North Pole makes our weather temperate. And, our geography is amazing. I’ve driven from 100 degree deserts to snowy Mt. Hood, to the awe-inspiring Pacific coast. In 1 day, no less.
These days, Eugene may be best known for our fighting Duck football team. Coach Chip Kelly brought home a BCS Fiesta Bowl victory last night. Go Ducks.
The logging and wood products industries are recovering, but slowly. Both are significant sources of employment in Lane County. Additionally, the housing market is the chief source of demand for wood products. Construction of more single-family houses is what’s needed, but building of such homes is at low levels around Eugene Springfield—and nationwide.
Before more new home building can start up, the inventory of existing homes for sale needs to decrease. In the meantime, it’s a great time to buy.
New home construction fell to an all time low in February 2011, with an annualized national number of building permits at 517K. In Eugene Springfield new residential building is very slow right now. New building permits issued in January were reported to be 27, down 13% from January 2010. 466 building permits were issued in Eugene Springfield for all of last year.
Distressed properties are often cheaper than replacement cost, and there’s a lot of inventory of all types of houses to be sold; until both of those change, I don’t expect new house building to pick up much.
It’s still a great time to buy, though. Prices are down in Eugene Springfield and there are some great values.