By Kalie Savill
The Kesey Square is on the corner of Willamette Street and Broadway, the heart of downtown. Kesey Square is next to a popular pizza joint named “Sizzle Pie” and a donut shop named “Voodoo Donuts.” A local development group has approached city officials about buying and developing a mixed-used building on top of it. People aren’t happy about the change that might happen to Kesey Square because it’s been a part of their lives for so long. Before Kesey Square, a two story building sat in that spot for 80 years. The city’s urban renewal agency bought the privately owned Titus Building and then demolished it in summer 1970 to create the public central plaza of the downtown pedestrian mall that opened the following year. The downtown mall was a bust, and the city slowly reopened streets to vehicle traffic in a years-long effort to bring life back to the area. The following year, they built the Kesey statue after an author named Ken Kesey who grew up in Springfield.
The first idea to cover Kesey Square and redevelop it into a six-story, mixed-use building with 55 apartments and ground-floor retail for eateries and small retail shops. The second concept would open the city-owned walls that separate the buildings from the plaza as storefronts and then establish a microbrewery incubator. The incubator would help further the city’s successful craft beer industry and attract more businesses, including eateries, small retail shops and galleries. People don’t like this idea because they like the hangout spot in the middle of downtown. Nobody likes change. Changing the Kesey Square is hard for people because they are used to it whether they hang out there or drive by it everyday, they don’t want to see it change into something they are not used to.