|Liberty and Chemeketa at dusk (City of Salem and Ron Cooper)|
The vacant bank across the street and the fact that Penney's lacks a corner entry are certainly ingredients in the lack of foot traffic here and exacerbate difficulties that Liberty Plaza itself has had in keeping quality tenants.Starbucks closes location at Liberty Plaza https://t.co/ls61JHf2xy— Statesman Journal (@Salem_Statesman) March 16, 2016
|Uninviting, hard, blank wall that says |
"move along, folks, nothing to do here, no reason to linger"
The contrast with the more vital street activity at Liberty and Court is strong.
I believe our skybridges harm downtown vitality, and that we should consider getting rid of them - or at least spending more energy and resources designing our streets and sidewalks to compensate for their siphoning action.
Their origins had been somewhat mysterious, but a document recently posted by Salem Community Vision tells perhaps more about their origin.
Salem Tomorrow Report, (1984) was a visioning document, described as "quasi-official," written by volunteers with a City Councilor and with the blessing of Mayor Harris (nee Harris, now Sue Miller).
While other sections of the country have either torn down existing structures in order to establish enclosed shopping malls, or turned over other open spaces to this use, the City of Salem has directed its attention to accomplishing much of the same result without the need of such extensive demolition, reconstruction, or diminishment of open spaces. The answer in Salem appears to be the establishment of skywalks in the downtown area.
A skywalk is an above-ground, pedestrian bridge system which interconnects adjacent buildings with interior corridors, thus permitting pedestrian travel above grade across city streets. Such structures would allow shoppers to traverse the downtown commercial area without leaving a controlled, not the least of which is dry, environment. In essence, the effect will be one of creating a shopping mall effect with unlimited access to commercial establishments without competing with either automobiles or the elements.
The first skywalk will connect J.C. Penny's with Nordstrom Mall, and construction on this first link is proposed for the fall of 1984, with public bid and contract to be awarded during the summer of 1984.
The City, through its Urban Renewal Agency, will act as a catalyst using tax increment financing. The building owners and tenants will execute a promissory note to purchase the skywalk from the City over a 15 year period, with 10 inter- est. Anticipated total cost for the initial span will be approximately 250,000, presently 1 funded, and it is anticipated that it will open in the fall of 1984. Thereafter additional links are anticipated to be constructed between other major facilities in the core area.
It might be too much to ask for the ones that were built to be removed. They connect parking garages with the mall and big chain department stores. If "a shopping mall effect with unlimited access to commercial establishments without competing with either automobiles or the elements" is what you want, they deliver.
But they are also rooted in car-oriented mid-century demolition and redevelopment on the "mall" template. If they offer shelter from rain and other zooming cars, they also inhibit circulation on the sidewalks and connections with the smaller and older storefronts that retain streetcar scale and pattern. Skybridges get cars and car exhaust away from people - but crucially, they also get people out of the way so car drivers don't have to stop or slow. They are pedestrian displacement systems.
In total, skybridges correlate with coarse-grained biggness and dullness and work against finer grained variety and vitality.
From here, therefore, it is not surprising that the Starbucks on Liberty and Court might thrive more than the Starbucks on Liberty and Chemeketa. The former has stronger patterns of sidewalk life.
The Downtown Advisory Board met yesterday, and in the minutes for the February 11th meeting are notes that they are allocating $1.2 million in urban renewal funds to a "downtown streetscape" project. A subcommittee of four DAB members has been working to define a scope of work to give to a consultant for the project.
The dollar amount is too small to fund removal of the skybridges, but maybe folks can think about this more and more.
|Arbuckle Costic and Salem Downtown Partnership|
The solution to downtown streets is not MOAR PARKING, but is more people strolling and shopping. People on foot are the foundation of this, and they arrive by many different means, not just driving. The most successful streetscape project will put people first and ask parking and traffic to support that - not parking and traffic speed to lead.
If one approach has been to leave car traffic and to remove walking people, the verdict is in: That approach doesn't work. It's time for a new approach that has a heavy dose of traffic calming and support for walking.