Historic Eugene Park Blocks
Transforming the heart of downtown Eugene.
City of Eugene
Parks & Rec
Conceptual Planning, Public Involvement, site design
The historic Eugene Park Blocks (formally designated as the Eugene Town Square) project will transform the heart of downtown Eugene into a dynamic gathering place that will serve as a hub for community events, activities, and cultural experiences for many years to come. Cameron McCarthy, partnered with renowned design firm Olin, was hired to lead conceptual planning, public involvement, and site design on the project, resolving a preferred concept that involved four phases with a robust public outreach process throughout.
Overall, the Park Blocks project will create a new, vibrant, and engaging public space in the heart of downtown Eugene. By bringing together community members, artists, and local businesses, the transformed square will serve as a dynamic hub for cultural exchange, community events, and public engagement.
Step One began with identiying the operational needs of key stakeholders including the Saturday Market, Lane County Farmers Market, the desired character of the future square, and new program elements. Public responses showed a desire for a natural, safe, and active square deﬁned by art, and potential expansion for year-round use and multicultural programming.
Step Two proposed three possible designs, each proposing a distinct visual character and change to the flexibility and flow within the existing space. Survey responses demonstrated that protection of existing healthy trees iconic to the south park blocks and retention of some on-street parking were key community interests. The public wanted greater flexibility of use, an updated look with quality materials, and universal accessibility within and connecting beyond the square, all while supporting the continued needs of the two current markets.
Step Three shared a single conceptual design with the public, gauging whether it met four key project objectives: being safe and welcoming, active, natural, and memorable. Over seventy-ﬁve percent of respondents indicated they felt the design accomplished these objectives.
Step Four involved presenting designs to the City Council acting as the Urban Renewal Agency Board, providing confirmation to advance the Town Square Concept Plan and advance design progress based on a phased budget.
Extensive Public Involvement Process
Cameron McCarthy engaged with the community to understand what it meant to right-size the heart of downtown where everyone felt safe, inspired, and evoked a sense of ownership. The goal was to create a site that was inclusive yet unique to Eugene, where people could feel a sense of community and belonging. The process was rich with design workshops, stakeholder meetings, and public events. The team reached out to more than ten thousand people over the course of the six-month project. Information was shared and gathered via web and social media platforms, in-person outreach, public events, online and paper surveys, and in work sessions with current and potential future user groups. This feedback provided a foundation for the development of the conceptual design plan, and directly influenced the project program, size and siting of structures, and landscape elements during the first three project phases.
Phases of Implementation
The first phase of full design and construction is now complete with the Farmer’s Market Pavilion and Plaza (northwest block) and has exceeded the goals and needs of the community and users. The project incorporates features including established tree canopy protection, healthy rooting zones under pavements for new trees, stormwater treatment, permeable paving, climate-resilient landscaping, and energy-efficient lighting. The project also included bike parking and other amenities to encourage sustainable transportation options. Colored concrete, carefully crafted in a mosaic pattern, along with native trees strategically placed throughout, bring an artsy warmth to the plaza. The team integrated a Silva Cell system beneath pavements so that tree roots are allowed enough space to establish and promote long-term vigor in an active market space requiring vehicle access. In addition, the plaza features a demonstration pollinator garden, lush with native perennial plant species. In the ground or in a pot, many of the selected plants hold medicinal properties and all support the lifecycle of beneficial insects and bees. The Farmer’s Market Pavilion and Plaza won first place in the Arts, Culture & Entertainment category of Oregon DJC’s Top Projects in 2023. The remaining blocks are still to come as a future phase to this transformative undertaking.