Friday, February 8, 2013

Brainstorming the North State Hospital Campus

On Sunday the Statesman's going to have a piece on the north half of the State Hospital Campus.

Now that the new State Hospital facility is mostly finished, the parcel and buildings north of Center Street are surplus and the State is apparently looking to off-load them.

The last time we went through this we got Sustainable Fairview and the hospital's plan for a parking lot at the Blind School.

What should Salemites want from this 47 acres and likely development?

So far anyway, Fairview looks nothing like this

Six Institutional Buildings (Including the 1910-12 Dome Building)
and lots of greenspace at the State Hospital
At least some of the buildings have a distinguished history and ought strongly to be considered for creative reuse.

Dome Building last fall
While the Dome Building has an unfortunate recent history associated with its use for the Department of Corrections, previously it was used as the receiving ward and had been designed by Edgar Lazarus. Unless it turns out to be in worse shape than the Kirkbride building of Wilbur Boothby, it is certainly worth saving. Breitenbush Hall is by Pietro Belluschi. The other buildings may be of significantly less interest, and some are so depressing or dull they should probably just be demolished.  (Brick is an easy guide:  the buildings worth saving are probably faced or constructed in brick.)

So here's one idea:  The City, State, and a private developer should work out a deal to create a mixed use center with a good range of housing options, and offer State employees, including managers, significant incentives to live there and commute to State offices car-free.

If at least some folks are seriously willing to entertain the idea of spending $800+ million on a highway and bridge, why not offer incentives that will cost a lot less to encourage some number of state workers from Portland and especially from West Salem to relocate to a new mixed use development just 10 minutes by bike from the Capitol?  Make it worth their while!  There has to be some price point at which a low-car life there would be more advantageous than the high-car life in West Salem. 

By building roads we subsidize housing far out in the West Salem hills.  So why not shift the subsidy to something more valuable, a neighborhood that is near to downtown and doesn't involve much bridge crossing?

It's 10 minutes by bike to the Capitol!
The benefits to Salem would be many!
  • Reduces commuting traffic on the bridges
  • Reduces long distance commuting and regional greenhouse gases
  • Adds housing and families to a neighborhood near downtown.
  • Puts property on the City's tax rolls
  • With a grocery store and other commercial amenities, it creates a walkable neighborhood
According to a July story, the McMenamin empire has already passed on it for one of their hotel/pub/movie theater renovations, but people also seemed to be hung up on high-car development and the carrying capacity of D and Center Streets.  It seems to me that development concepts should be walkable and low-car, not strip-mall-y and high-car.  Think streetcar style!

So what's your crazy, big idea for the area?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fairview, Blind School, Boise Property, now lets see how we can screw this one up.