March 21, 2011; Source: Register-Guard | The cash-strapped 4J School District in Eugene, Ore. is seeking to unload Civic Stadium, a Depression era landmark it has owned since 1938, as surplus property. The home field of the minor league Eugene Emeralds until 2009, the stadium was built through a partnership of the local Chamber of Commerce, the School District, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It’s also hosted high school sporting events, but has not otherwise been used for education.
Even though the historic building is dilapidated, and the ten-acre site is in a congested area, the school district received three responses to its recent request for proposals for acquisition of the Civic Stadium property. A district screening committee ranked a private shopping center and apartment development ahead of two nonprofit redevelopment proposals. Now, the city of Eugene, which has no ownership rights in the process, has asked the school district to delay the sale or lease of the land to allow for more public input.
At issue are the criteria used to rank the proposals, the interests of various community stakeholders, and the challenge of voluntary collaboration between two public entities with some divergent interests.
The school district, facing severe financial constraints, weighted “revenue” as the most important criteria for evaluating proposals. This category accounted for 50 percent of the total proposal score. “Additional benefits” to the school district counted for another 20 percent. “Community benefits” were assigned a 20 percent weighting, while “historic preservation” garnered the last 10 percent.
Under these criteria, the private mixed-use shopping center project edged out a proposal by the Eugene YMCA to build a new recreation center plus student apartments. The purchase price offered by these two entities was similar. The grass roots nonprofit, “Save Civic Stadium,” which proposed restoration and reuse of the stadium complex for a wider range of sporting and community events, was ranked last.
4J Board Chairman Craig Smith is concerned about the late-in-the-game timing of the request for a delay. “At the end of the day, I don’t want to destroy the integrity of our request for proposal process.” It’s not clear if the City had formal input into the 4J process to date. But because both the private commercial project and the YMCA proposal will likely require rezoning, city officials can stake their request on this future point of influence on project feasibility. Can they also stake their request on finding shared interests?—Kathi Jaworski