Thursday, August 9, 2012

Downtown Streets and Hours in the News

Downtown's getting some nice discussion in the media this week! She's a Cinderella! - beautiful in reality, but kept dirty and put to work many of the wrong ways.

A couple of days ago Queenie Wong wrote about the economic and cultural impact of State workers.

Happily, someone talked about residences downtown!
“As the day goes on, all the state workers leave and everybody leaves downtown. So downtown is not unlike any state capital area. If there’s not a good mix of things such as apartment complexes and a high population density then you’re going to close early,” said Lyn McPherson, owner of Whitlock’s Vacuum & Sewing Center on Court Street NE.
McPherson is right! There needs to be a mix of things, and people need to live downtown.

Unfortunately, this observation receded into the background and instead of talking about the need to have people living right in downtown, the piece talked more about why State workers don't visit downtown more.
Members of the Salem Downtown Partnership, which represents downtown business, said discussions about making customers feel more welcome in the area through the creation of a “streetscape” with more greenery is one concept the board is reviewing.

Some residents said they feel as if there’s a psychological barrier that separates downtown from the other areas, board member Eric Kittleson said.

“We realized that it would benefit us as a downtown to do certain things to reach out more and create a more fluid connection between the state offices and downtown,” he said.
But the barrier is more than merely psychological. It is physical and actual! People live too far away, and people from adjacent to downtown will visit it much more frequently when people live in downtown itself.

Salem's institutional development near downtown has girdled downtown proper (and here). Residents and regular pulses of traffic into downtown, especially pulses by those on foot, on bike, or on transit, but even those in cars, face formidable barriers on the south, east, and west.

But there are also cultural issues. As one commenter pointed out,
Could it be that most of those state workers are going elsewhere? Maybe it's because, once they get to a higher income level, they'd rather live in Portland or some other, more welcoming community? I've noticed that, in Eugene and Corvallis, there's an active street scene after working hours. Why is that? Why aren't Willamette U employees, state workers and students flooding Salem's downtown? Maybe we should just ask them. Has anyone thought of doing a survey of state worker attitudes about Salem?
At any rate, the problem has many dimensions, and one single variable cannot explain everything.

Maybe the best part of National Night Out was the CAN-DO meeting downtown. The downtown neighborhood association tailgated on top of the Liberty Parkade. Not that many people live downtown, so what should have been a magnificent rooftop party was instead a small gathering of friends.

But the views (like at top) were magnificent!

Still, looking down to the streets, on a lovely and still early summer evening at 8pm, there wasn't much traffic, on foot or in car.

So since there's still not many people who live downtown, what can be done to lure people downtown.

Salem Weekly has a story on the Salem Downtown Partnership's streetscape concept.

A couple of years ago a median treatment for Liberty/Commercial was floated, and that concept has grown into a wider greenscape plan.

Via Salem Weekly
Arbuckle Costic and Salem Downtown Partnership

Arbuckle Costic and Salem Downtown Partnership

The greenscape plan is being developed at the same time as the Downtown Mobility Study is getting ready to kick off. City staff have sent out a call for steering committee members.

So there's a potential for terrific discussion, debate, and visionary action! (But of course, we could just talk about it and do nothing.)

It will be fascinating to watch the greenscape project develop and mature.

1 comment:

Doug's Transportation Ramblings said...

It is always interesting, and a shock, to come back to the US from Europe where the downtown streets have not been designed and constructed to accommodate large volumes of motor vehicles passing through, where the predominance of the traffic is pedestrians, and where conversations are not drowned out by the roar of engines. It is truly unfortunate what the planners have done to our cities.