Mark Frohnmayer builds a Utopian empire in Eugene

| Print |  Email
Articles - December 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
1210_Eugene04
1210_Eugene05
1210_Eugene06
Pizza Research Institute, with its vegan and vegetarian pizzas, helped Frohnmayer's renovation project gain acceptance in Eugene's Whiteaker neighborhood.
From the need to fill this new space and a dream to make a difference was born Arcimoto, the electric car company that Frohnmayer started in October 2007 with two full-time employees. The company’s first electric vehicle, dubbed Version 1, is an adorable little open-topped delivery car in sunshine yellow. Not terribly practical in the Oregon winter (or spring or fall), but an attention-getter.

While being the son of Dave Frohnmayer, former University of Oregon president, has many advantages, it can be a disadvantage in an artsy, anarchist neighborhood like Whiteaker. Dave Frohnmayer acknowledges that his political baggage as a Republican candidate for governor in 1990 followed his son to some degree. Residents of Whiteaker were concerned that “a Frohnmayer” was coming in to raze buildings and gentrify their neighborhood, pushing out longtime residents. “But Mark is not ostentatious,” his father says, “and I admire him for that. He does his part by living it.”

Mark Frohnmayer took the concerns of his neighbors seriously and tried to solve problems, not create them. “I talked to lots of people about ideas and elements to bring in,” he says, especially around Whiteaker’s aesthetics and cultural values. He brought longtime Eugene fixture Pizza Research Institute (PRI), which had been serving creative vegetarian and vegan pizzas in town for two decades. (Frohnmayer himself is a vegetarian.) They moved a cleaned-out shipping container into the space to serve as a kitchen and invited local groups to hold fundraisers and informational events in the restaurant. PRI is also a stop on Eugene’s alternative Last Friday art walk.

“Mark is one of a handful of youngish entrepreneurs improving the neighborhood,” says PRI owner Will Boise. He was concerned that PRI might not be able to draw customers from outside the Whiteaker neighborhood, but that hasn’t been a problem in the year since the business moved. “Mark’s vision is to have this space be a model of urban revitalization,” Boise says, “and he’s been willing to go out on a limb with this project. It took a serious fiscal investment on his part.”

The restaurant shares a back patio with the “crack house,” as Frohnmayer calls it. Sliding glass doors lead from the PRI patio to what is now a cheery little house that Frohnmayer and his former redevelopment partner emptied and scrubbed. Frohnmayer then renovated it to serve as a wellness center and yoga studio where he and another instructor teach several yoga classes each week.

The final piece of the Blair Boulevard puzzle, where Frohnmayer is now the sole redeveloper, is the Arcimoto facility, where the electric-car prototypes are built in their entirety and the full-time staff has grown to eight. The front office houses desks for design, marketing and accounting staff; the back room is where the vehicles come to life. One wall of the glassed-in conference room serves as a showcase for potential Arcimoto vehicle designs.

It may seem counterintuitive to some to build a vehicle manufacturing business in a place like Eugene, but Frohnmayer would disagree. “It’s a national hub of motor-coach manufacturing,” he says. “We have a large potential workforce that’s already largely trained.” Three current Arcimoto employees bring their expertise from three wrecked RV companies from the area — Monaco, Country Coach and Marathon — to the electric-vehicle realm, and Frohnmayer would like to hire more experienced but displaced RV workers to build EVs when the cars are in regular production. (The first very small fleet of cars will be ready by the end of this year.) “If you have people in your back yard who are equipped to deal with tomorrow’s problems,” Frohnmayer says, “we shouldn’t outsource that expertise and that labor around the world.”

 



 

More Articles

Courtside

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Power lunching at the Court Street Dairy Lunch in Salem.


Read more...

European Vacation

Guest Blog
Thursday, April 23, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

There are winners and losers with a strengthening U.S. dollar.


Read more...

Oregon businesses face destruction from future earthquake

The Latest
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
htctthumb1BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.


Read more...

Foundations perspective

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Martha Richards, executive director of the James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation.


Read more...

Shades of Gray

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Are we too quick to diagnose corruption?


Read more...

Photo Diary: Forest Grove Farmers Market

The Latest
Thursday, May 14, 2015
IMG 8469BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

There are more than 160 farmers markets in Oregon, contributing an estimated $50 million in sales, according to the Oregon Farmers Markets Association. We checked in on the Forest Grove market, which for several years has brought local produce and food vendors to Main Street in the center of town.


Read more...

Fighting Fire With Fire

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY BEN DEJARNETTE | INVESTIGATEWEST

Timber companies and environmental groups take a stab at collaboration to boost logging and restoration in Oregon fires.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS