While the Hospital tempts the neighborhood association with a vision of "a sensory and therapy garden for children and adults, with a plaque commemorating the history of the property" contingent on demolishing Howard Hall, if you look at the map, you see there's plenty of room on the site for a therapy garden!
|Way more Parking & Pavement than Building!|
|Driveway on Church has since been deleted|
But an important reason the hospital's parking is out of whack is that it is allocated extremely inefficiently.
|Salem River Crossing Alternate Modes Study|
And make room for healthy, healing, lovely things like a therapy garden.
(Or, you know, the Hospital could just buy the Lord & Schryver Home Garden, just one block down the road, with easy access on the alley.)
Market-priced parking, it turns out, is one of the recommendations in the Alternate Modes Study. You may also remember from the Comprehensive Plan:
12. The implementation of transportation system and demand management measures, enhanced transit service, and provision for bicycle and pedestrian facilities shall be pursued as a first choice for accommodating travel demand and relieving congestion in a travel corridor, before widening projects are constructed.An Opportunity for Active Transportation
13. The Salem Transportation System Plan shall identify methods that citizens can use to commute to work and decrease overall traffic demand on the transportation system. Such methods include transit ridership, telecommuting, carpooling, vanpooling, flexible work schedules, walking, and bicycling.
18. The Salem Transportation System Plan shall identify methods that employers can use to better facilitate the commute of their employees, encourage employees to use alternative travel modes other than the SOV, and decrease their needs for off-street parking.
There's clearly an opportunity here. Salem Hospital has a smoke-free campus. Signs posted near entries and other places say, "This is a place of healing."
While automobiles possess a clear social utility that cigarettes do not, automobile exhaust as well as physical inactivity are also documented health risks. Car use and active transportation should be public health matters.
According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
The mobile source pollutants, including acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, 1,3 butadiene, diesel PM, benzene, and arsenic show high concentrations along and adjacent to the major traffic corridors....simultaneous exposure to multiple airLocated between the Salem Parkway and Mission Street, it's likely that the Hospital complex also experiences elevated air pollution.
toxics, even at median exposure levels, creates the potential for adverse health outcomes, including cancer.
Geographically elevated cancer risks align with major highway corridors within the Portland area, which is consistent with on-road engines as an important source of benzene [and arsenic].
Public opinion is slow to change, unfortunately. It has taken well over a half century of advocacy to create smoke-free public spaces. Why can't we learn from that campaign and work to promote the public health benefits of active transportation?
Oregon Health Sciences University might provide a model. Here's their 2011 Bike Program Report. They say
2011 was a banner year for biking at Oregon Health & Science University. We counted more bikes than ever on campus, marked one year of operation for our web application, test ran a popular bike valet, and the American League of Bicyclists Gold rated us as a Bike Friendly Business.Salem Hospital should take a look! The reasons a bike program is good for OHSU are no different one would be good for Salem Hospital.
...OHSU has a robust array of incentives to aid transportation options: incentives recoup maintenance costs of biking; subsidies slash the cost of transit passes; yearend bonuses for employees incentivize walking and other active modes; and carpooling reduces a parking deduction by 50% or more. Reduced auto trips save the institution and the individual real dollars and cents by aiding health and reducing costs of commuting and parking. And for those who must drive, it eases traffic congestion and the demand for permits.
Maybe encouraging more employees and staff to bike can eliminate or reduce the need for additional employee parking.
As for preserving Howard Hall and finding uses for it, it might be easier if the neighborhood association weren't quite so set on keeping the strip along Church Street as a private-public park. They fear big buildings and "commercial encroachment" in the historic district.
|Howard Hall before Demolition|
Some kind of mixed-use that is not strictly related to the delivery of health care could help regulate the street and park life. The neighbors, in fact, should be open to some kind of residential development - you know, apartments over ground-floor retail, on the old streetcar model.
Finally, we have to remember that the the confluence of Shelton Ditch and Pringle Creek makes the Hospital itself liable to flooding.
|1964 Flood at Hospital and Blind School: Salem Library Historic Photos|
This stands in tension with the neighborhood association's wish for a triangular pattern of development, with low, single-story development along Church Street and higher, mid-rise buildings towards Winter Street.
The problems here are hardly insurmountable. It's good that the Hospital is taking the concepts out and engaging in conversation. Hopefully it will result in a creative design solution that makes the new development vibrant, valuable, and lovely.
But we should remember that at the root of this debate and discussion is our insatiable appetite for free parking.