For the past year, under a lease with the city, Crow’s Feet Commons has managed Mirror Pond Plaza. But last Wednesday, the City of Bend unexpectedly declined to renew that lease. (See "Clipping the Crow's Wings")
Were there specific complaints that Crow’s Feet Commons was poorly managing the space? Not really.
Yes, a few grumblings, like a complaint made by an off-duty Bend police department employee regarding the shop’s special event permit. However, that complaint was treated by the police as an opportunity to educate Crow’s Feet Commons how to align its practices with the City’s policies, and city officials admit that Crow’s Feet Commons followed through; a monitor who visited an event later in the month found the shop in full compliance. Police Chief Jim Porter did say there were other complaints—police records show two filed noise complaints (no citations) in the past year—but Crow’s Feet Commons owner David Marchi says they always end music by 10 pm and strive to create a family-friendly atmosphere.
Yet—and what is most troubling—the City doesn’t seem to have any specific or compelling reasons to cancel the lease, and they changed their story from what they sent in an email to Marchi letting him know they were canceling, and what they told us. City of Bend Business Advocate Carolyn Eagan, who made the recommendation to City staff to deny the lease, gave the Source her reasons for the decision. For starters, she explained, city staff did not observe that Crow’s Feet Commons creating a vibrant lunchtime environment as they had hoped. But when asked to specify exactly what this would look like, she was not able to give any quantifiable data. Eagan admitted she was not the one who had observed what the City is calling a lack of lunchtime activity. Instead, that was Bend Special Projects Director Brad Emerson and an unidentified “staff,” who made these observations, although he was unable to even approximate for the Source when or how often they made these observations. Furthermore, Eagan said that had the lease been re-approved, she would have proposed a more measurable way to determine if Crow’s Feet Common was meeting the proposed objectives because, she said, “I didn’t feel it was fair to go on observations.” Yet, she did just that.
Another reason Eagan provided to the Source for canceling the lease is that after meeting with a group of organizations concerned with addressing vagrancy, panhandling and crime in downtown, she felt that there was a better way to deal with these issues in the plaza.
But the activity at the plaza under Crow’s Feet Commons’ governance has been a marked difference from what was happening prior. Rebecca Charlton, who owns the nearby Cowgirl Cash, says she’s seen a dramatic improvement in the plaza since Crow’s Feet Commons moved in. While she acknowledges that increased police patrols have played a part, she credits Crow’s Feet Common for most of the positive changes.
“Since I’ve been downtown, there’s always been an understanding that the best thing we can do for the plaza is create activity,” Charlton says. “I think that having Crow’s Feet Commons leasing that space has been crucial to keeping that space family friendly.”
Bend is a small town—or, at least, we like to believe that the city of 80,000 still has that friendly, look-a-neighbor-in-the-eye approach to solving problems. City Hall is only three blocks from Crows’ Feet Commons. Marchi said that he has had a hard time getting clear answers from City staff, and has had fewer in-person meetings than he would like.
Although Crow’s Feet Commons only managed 500 square feet of Mirror Pond Plaza, it is an important piece of real estate for downtown. Given the successes Crow’s Feet Commons has had with creating a friendly and safe atmosphere there, whatever problems there may have been, those seem small in comparison to what benefits Crow’s Feet Commons has brought to the space and downtown.