Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hollywood District Urban Renewal's Desolation and Third Bridge

It's been said that one of the signs of a walkable and thriving neighborhood is the retention of a local (and frequently historic) movie theater.

Among critics of the Third Bridge and worries about the Highland and Edgewater neighborhoods, there's been recent talk about the Hollywood district.

One of the sad losses in Salem is the destruction of the Hollywood neighborhood and theater in our first urban renewal mess.

Demolition of Hollywood Theater, 1971:  Salem Library
Any person who thinks the Third Bridge is a good idea should be required to walk around the voids, parking lots, and underutilized commercial spaces that are the remnants of what once was a thriving neighborhood and commercial district.  (Here's a particularly poignant then-and-now look.  The equally stark contrast along Mission between 12th and 17th is also instructive.)

Hollywood Theater in better days:  Salem Library
Check out the soda fountain/drug store and lunch counters!

North Capitol and Hunt:  Salem Library
Hollywood District, 1960s:  Salem Library
In the 60s the streets and odd intersections here were considered inadequate, needing to be modernized. Progress and growth demanded "improvements" to Capitol, Summer, and Fairgrounds Road - along with modifications to the side streets.

And this is exactly the way the need for the Third Bridge is framed today.  The outdated bridges no longer serve the needs of a growing city.  Progress!  Growth!

It is, however, hard to see how the urban renewal projects actually renewed the area.  Today the square footage of taxable buildings is surely much, much less than it was, and the area is clearly less dense.  It would be interesting to know the delta in assessed value.  It is almost certain the public value, the taxable base, of the district, and the City's finances, have taken a hit above and beyond the years of the "tax increment."  The amount of commercial activity is also much less, and so renewal failed to generate private value in this way.  Finally, the aesthetics of the concrete and asphalt represent a diminution or degradation of experience for those who live and visit the area.

It is difficult to walk or bike, and the barren triangle of Erixon, Fairgrounds, and Capitol captures the soulless and wasted potential in a nutshell.

The verdicts of history and of empirical data must be that this instance of urban renewal did not create a net increase in growth or value!  It failed to create public value, it failed to create private value, and it failed to create aesthetic value.

At the last hearing one person called the prospect of a big new bridge an "attractive nuisance."  We should pay more attention to the lessons of history and those former "attractions" that never quite panned out.  

The next Council Work Session tentatively appears to be on Monday, December 17th.

If you haven't done so, consider emailing to urge Councilors to refocus efforts on better and much less costly ways to improve mobility and manage congestion.  If writing a letter or email's not your style, a petition is circulating, and you can sign on here.

For more on the River Crossing / Third Bridge see a summary critique and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing. The No Third Bridge advocates also have lots of useful information.

1 comment:

Walker said...

Great post. There are two other soulless triangles south of the big one ... Both would make excellent community garden spots.

The problem is that the city has pushed itself into a deep hole financially with all its carburban sprawl, and so now when you propose doing something nice for, you know, just people, you get told there's no money and that you'll have to pay. I tried to get a gardener's faucet installed in McRae park and the city wanted thousands (I kid you not) for it. Money all gone to CH2M Hill . . .