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Ken Kesey Fans Concerned over High-Rise Plans in Oregon


A bronze statue of Ken Kesey, located in a public park in Eugene, Oregon, hangs in the balance as developers seek to have it taken down or moved. However, supporters of Kesey, the famous writer of “Sometimes a Great Nation” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” are pushing back to keep the statue intact.

Developers in a city of roughly 160,000 people are proposing an apartment complex to help boost the economy and attract highly educated technology workers, but to complete the project, the public park must be leveled. The problem is that this is the park where the bronze statue of Kesey resides.

Proposals are being heard by the Eugene City Council through January 15. Soon after, a vote is likely to be scheduled. Members must determine if the 80-foot-by-55-foot plot of city land should remain as is, or if an area now a popular city landmark should be modified.

Going Through Changes

Currently, Eugene is going through a smaller version of the culture clash that has taken place in other cities, including San Francisco and Seattle. As more tech companies crop up, cultural institutions and popular local spots are being pushed out.

Mayor Kitty Piercy explained that with technology comes jobs and energy. However, officials in Eugene do not want to see the same things played out in this city as they did elsewhere—places where everything was priced out of range for lower and middle-income people.

Recently, over 100 people gathered to discuss different plans for the property. Among those was Betty Taylor, one of the members of the city council and a former English teacher, who opposes the development of the high-rise apartment complex. In her words, people need places within the city to gather.

Difference in Opinion

At the public park, people enjoy sports, concerts, and outdoor movie screenings, but it has also become riddled with panhandling and crime associated with the homeless that have lived around that area. The name is also a controversial topic. Supporters want the public park to be called Kesey Square, while people on the developer side prefer the name Broadway Plaza.

The principal and managing partner of Rowell Brokaw, Greg Brokaw, says the park is a failed space. Part of his proposal, which was presented to council members and backed by the Chamber of Commerce, involves developers buying the land at market value and building up to 40 apartments on top of a cafeteria-type eatery. Kesey’s statue would be moved to a different area of the park, and still accessible 24 hours a day.

Although one member of Kesey’s family supports Brokaw’s proposal, others feel blindsided. In fact, a Facebook group called “Save Kesey Square,” has been started by people who want the public park left alone. Until all proposals are submitted, reviewed, and voted on, the outcome remains unclear.

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