Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Quasi-Town Squares in the News, Neighborhood Association Bits

A couple of downtown public spaces were in the news over the weekend, and it might be interesting to consider a moment how they functioned, especially as they remain more autoist than not.

Methodist vigil for Orlando Victims
(via Statesman Journal)
Refugee Resettlement Welcome (via Statesman Journal)
It was a surprise to see the Sculpture Garden at the Conference Center used for the end of a short march through downtown and then a vigil. Peace Plaza would have seemed like a more natural place, but the participants seemed to be mostly from out of town, those participating in an Oregon-Idaho Methodist conference that was already going on at the Conference Center. So it was a straight-forward move to use the patio annex we know as the Sculpture Garden in the way a group might use a town square since they wouldn't necessarily know about Peace Plaza and it would be, relatively speaking, distant from the Conference Center.

A couple of days later, there was a celebration and welcome for those participating in the Refugee Resettlement program here. This took place in Peace Plaza, as you would expect for something planned locally.

Neither event could really be structured to attract passers-by. On the corner of Trade and Commercial, one of them a State Highway, part of OR-22, the other part of the Liberty/Commercial couplet with more lanes through downtown than I-5, the Sculpture Garden is hemmed in by car traffic and doesn't attract much foot traffic. Peace Plaza is mostly invisible from Commercial Street and totally invisible from Liberty Street. Even though it is technically an outdoor space, it is nearly enclosed like a room. Public events there feel private, almost by invitation only. Presumably, most if not all of the participants arrived by car to the Conference Center or to the Civic Center.

Nursing home kitty-corner to Sculpture Garden
with some ground floor retail/cafe space with a plaza  (CB|Two)
At the same time once the nursing home and its mini-plaza goes in kitty-corner to the Sculpture Garden, even with the rivers of cars this intersection will have some adjacent activity, and it is possible that new kinds of uses will organically arise for the Sculpture Garden. It's at least a possibility, notwithstanding the not-100% public nature of the Sculpture Garden. So that's a tantalizing potential to watch.

At any rate, under present conditions, both events underscored Salem's lack of any place that really functions as a Town Square, places where people naturally congregate, and places that have vital edges with a variety of scheduled and unscheduled activity.


The downtown neighborhood association meets tonight, Tuesday the 21st, and they have several transportation items on the agenda:
  • Bike Boulevards Update/Angela Obery and Michael Livingston
  • Construction plans for Mission Street SE, Union Street bikeway and Church & High Street bike lanes/Julie Titchbourne, Public Works Department
  • A proposal to authorize Land Use Committee Chair Woody Dukes to speak with Ward 1 Councilor Chuck Bennett on behalf of the Board in opposition to the proposed drive-through at 205 Church Street SE (the Starbucks coffee shack).
CAN-DO also meets Tuesday the 21st, at 6:00 p.m. at First Christian Church on 685 Marion Street NE.


The Englewood neighborhood association doesn't anything on the agenda, but the minutes from the last meeting had one interesting tidbit.

Salem Area Trails Alliance had more detail on funding sources for the proposed Bike Park for Geer Park: $13,000 in own fund-raising, a whopping $51,000 from the Withnell Family, and the $30,000 from Rotary. Withnell had earlier announced a match for $5,000 - so it would be very significant if the $51,000 is not a typo in the minutes but is an increase by an order of magnitude.

NEN meets Tuesday the 21st, at 6:30pm in the Salem First Church of the Nazarene, 1550 Market Street NE.

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