When the Source first reported last week that the City of Bend would not renew Crow's Feet Commons' lease on the 500 square feet of Mirror Pond Plaza adjacent to the historic building it also leases from the City, the public outcry caught owner David Marchi by surprise. "Public reaction has been quite impressive. I thought that people would voice their concerns, but it's pretty crazy how the story has spread like wildfire," Marchi says. "I think that there has been some general sentiment toward the City on a number of levels and this boiled people's blood beyond what I expected."
And officials at the City took notice. Initially engaging with concerned residents via Twitter on Thursday night and Friday morning, even encouraging an individual to "call city hall tomorrow and we'd be happy to explain the things the Source didn't report," the City released a memo Friday afternoon from Special Projects Director Brad Emerson to City Manager Eric King detailing the City's response to community members' vocal concerns and a plan of action to find a middle ground with Crow's Feet Commons. "It's clear from the widespread community response that the Mirror Pond Plaza (Plaza) is a highly valued gathering place for the community, and many people value the up-change associated with Crow's Feet Commons (CFC) leasing of the historic Rademacher House," the memo begins. "As in any relationship that has expectations beyond a normal business/cash partnership there are some areas that haven't worked as expected, by both CFC and the City of Bend."
The memo goes on to detail the ways in which the City has supported Crow's Feet Commons establishing a successful business, such as subsidizing the rent on the building and bundling special event permits to reduce fees. It also outlines the City's concerns regarding compliance with the lease on the Rademacher House, which include the subleasing of the plaza space. Marchi says he takes issue with the alleged violations.
City Manager Eric King says the decision was a matter of fairness. Crow's Feet Commons' lease on the plaza had expired in December 2013, and to add a new lease when the business wasn't holding up its end of the deal on the building didn't seem right.
"As outlined in the memo, there were compliance issues with the current [Rademacher House] lease," King says. "Taxpayers expect that we treat people fairly."
Still, King and other City staff recognize that Crow's Feet is doing some things well and hopes to capitalize on its success in the public square—but without issuing a new lease.
"Moving forward, we would like to work with CFC to continue programming positive activities in the Plaza," Emerson writes in the memo. He adds that the City plans to continue issuing Crow's Feet Commons a "blanket permit," to consider a sidewalk café permit to allow for some additional outdoor seating, and to invite the business to participate in the recently formed Downtown Livability Group, which is focused on coming up with a comprehensive solution to problems with anti-social activity in public spaces.
While Marchi says he would prefer to have time to continue with his vision for the plaza, he's open to a compromise. "I would love to be able to continue to create, to give it more time," Marchi says. "Just like my business growing, it takes multiple years to see [the plaza] grow."
Ultimately though, King says, the decision to lease a portion of the plaza was something of an experiment, and he believes that the overall goal of improving downtown livability may be better achieved by other means. "I think the issues regarding the plaza and overall livability of downtown needs to be looked at from a multifaceted perspective," King says, adding that no single factor is the be-all, end-all solution.
Marchi met with City staff last week and will meet again to discuss a path forward on Friday.
LETTERS IN REPLY TO "CLIPPING THE CROW'S WINGS" (8/27)
After walking across the “Plaza” to visit Crows Feet one morning I was greeted by a vagrant who asked me to pee on him. I told David about it and he made the guy move on. So if you wonder why it’s hard for David to develop a lunch crowd on the plaza they should help him out by removing the vagrants. The City should enact an ordinance that does not allow vagrants to sit on the ground anywhere in downtown Bend. It works for Santa Cruz so why not here. —Vagrants be gone
This is another perfect example of how unfriendly the City of Bend actually is to small businesses. They pat themselves on the back all day long in public eye about their commitment to small business. Then use underhanded, back door methods to drive the entrepreneurs out of business. It’s systematic and devious and there’s a lot more going on than any of us know. Who is bought and sold? This business, its owner and the employees have been a reputable establishment since conception. They have done nothing but positive for the community. This is yet another bad move by the “powers that be.” I hope people care enough to stand and fight for this business. They truly deserve the support and would be sorely missed in an ever homogenizing downtown. —Wesley Ladd
Once again, the city fails to impress. Marchi’s doing good work in revitalizing the area, yet the city—which hasn’t presented any sort of plan for the space—now thinks they can do better? The accusations made by city staff against Crow’s Feet are so minor that you can’t but wonder what the real agenda is. —TCWriter
The other day I rode my bike through the plaza in front of Crow’s Feet and was amazed. For the first time since I moved here in 2004, the plaza benches where not filled with smoking teens, with their pit bulls and cigarettes. I did not see skateboard riders smoking pot or people begging for money. I saw families enjoying the view, eating from the food carts and smiles. I am not sure what the City of Bend is thinking, and it appears I am not alone. —Caferacer
Carolyn Egan says, “If we have someone who wants to have a lease with the city, there should be no question ever.” It would be interesting to look at every other business or individual who has a lease with the city, and see how their issues have been or are being handled. I suspect that there are businesses who have done far worse than letting a customer walk off premise with a glass of wine during First Friday, or painting a sign in the wrong place, but who haven’t suffered nearly the same consequences as Crow’s Feet Commons. Shame. —Justin Yax