It is too strong to say that South Commercial is really changing in any fundamental way. But in a one block stretch of road, a couple of small and incremental changes are at the very least interesting, and we can hope we might look back in a few years and see this as an inflection point.
Venti's is of course the big news. There's going to be lots of stuff written, blogged, and tweeted about the new Taphouse at Fairview and Commercial, located in the old Buster's space. The bike parking isn't in yet, but we all know that this is going to become a destination for people on bike! (I'll have more on that later!)
Just one block south, there's another development.
After Silver Falls Bank went under, the old Izzy's space was leveled* and a new little strip mall is going up.
On the one hand, yes, Vista Place is a strip mall. But on the other hand, CB|Two is the project architect, and there are some incremental changes that will make it a better place for walking and biking.
This photo is taken from the north, looking south. You'll notice a low wall and the building turned 90 degrees and oriented east-west. The wall cuts across and blocks off the old driveway.
Indeed, a curb cut has been removed, and car access will now be through the existing parking lot to the north.
Behind the wall will be tables and seating, and there is a gap in the wall so that people who might be walking from the neighborhood can go from the sidewalk to the storefronts.
The plans call for covered bike parking near the entryway, and for the building's siting, insulation, windows, and white roof to manage passive solar heating and cooling.
Most development along Commercial here, as it is on most of Salem's busy arterials, is recessed far from the street, and an ocean of asphalt for car parking separates the sidewalk from the storefronts. These are auto-dependent developments (not to mention the car dealerships). More recently, little sidecar buildings, where French Press and Jamba Juice are located, have drawn the commercial activity closer to the sidewalk.
Hopefully Venti's and Vista Place will continue to draw more people on foot and on bike, and work to create a less completely auto-dependent district here. It would be so nice to see buildings continue to move towards the street and to see their scale and footprint map to the human rather than the car.
*At the same time, it is too bad the old Izzy's couldn't be reused. No matter how efficient and green is new construction, it will take a couple of generations for it to offset the embodied energy lost in the demolition. We recycle cans, but not buildings. Too bad there's not a building deposit!