Thursday, July 22, 2010

Proposed Salem Heath Parking Lot Threatens Historic Bush Neighborhood

Back in the first flush of urban renewal and hospital expansion, Salem lost a bunch of great old houses along Oak Street to the east of the hospital. This is one of them. A couple were relocated elsewhere in the city, but most were demolished.

It's that deja vu all over again feeling!

Over at LoveSalem, Walker's got a note about one of the more important land use decisions facing Salem: What to do with the Blind School parcel?

You can see it in blue on the zoning map. Fortunately, it appears that a zoning change would be necessary. Interestingly, it is also just above the flood plain. (Check out the differences small elevations make in this photo from the 1964 flood!)

Walker's language about it is strong, and yet it is an important matter. What is most disconcerting is the disconnect between the hospital's mission to promote heath, and the ways our overreliance on drive-alone car trips systematically degrades health by encouraging transportation choices that remove physical activity from one's life and instead contribute to greenhouse gases and other toxic products from petroleum combustion.

Cars are an important transportation tool - no one wants bicycle ambulances or fire suppression trikes! But it is in all our best interests to create a transportation system that doesn't assume the drive-alone car as the default transportation choice for everyone.

A parking lot there would also remove historic properties that might be better and more sustainably reused, would adversely impact the livability of the historic Gaiety Hill Bush Park Neighborhood, and remove Church street as a low-traffic bike- and walkway.

In many ways a parking lot is not consistent with community goals.

It is not consistent with many of the Vision 2020 Action Plan goals:
Provide Places for People to Live and Gather
3. Develop new downtown housing

Create a Vibrant Destination
5. Offer more restaurants with outdoor eating for dining and gathering
6. Support performing arts venues, live music
9. Support more small, locally-owned shops and boutiques

Preserve and Enhance the Look and Feel of the Historic City Center
11. Highlight historic character of downtown
12. Create welcoming entrances for the City Center
13. Protect the character of the adjoining historic residential neighborhoods
14. Enhance pedestrian friendly, clean and attractive sidewalks and streetscape
17. Continue to rehabilitate historic buildings

Expand Options to Get About the City Center
18. Actively manage City Center parking resources
21. Improve bicycle facilities; add more bike lanes and pedestrian bike paths

Improve Connections to Parks, Creeks and River
23. Create more riverfront and creek side corridors and trails

Nor is it consistent with community hopes for more greenway space. A group of neighbors have been advocating for a series of greenway connections in the city, and this is also inconsistent with that goal.

Of course, a significant problem is that the State is strapped for cash and needs to monetize the parcel quickly. Haste will make waste, it seems here.

Surely better uses for the parcel can be identified!

We'll keep you posted.

No comments: