Friday, July 12, 2013

Ross: Sign Dross for our Loss? Autoist Analysis misses Dimension of Walking

The whole kerfluffle over the Ross Dress for Less sign is fascinating.

Yeah, it's pretty ugly
The sign is mainly visible from Center Street on the bridge heaing east and on Libery heading north. This fact leads a story in the paper, in fact:
Drive into downtown Salem from the Center Street bridge and it’s one of the first things you see: the giant blue letters for Ross Dress for Less, the new tenant in the Salem Center mall.
These are busy roads and they aren't pleasant for walking or biking. They're totally auto-oriented arterals and urban highways.

Uninviting, hard, blank wall that says
"move along, folks, nothing to do here, no reason to linger"
And in today's Winners & Losers, the paper says, "the store’s massive sign is out of character with downtown mall’s brick design."

And the character of that brick design is???

The biggest problem with the mall is not that there's a garish, over-sized sign on the corner, but that there are no doors, no apertures, nothing but a hard brick border along the sidewalk. Sure there are some windows, but fundamentally the environment is not friendly for people who are walking.

These are lousy edge conditions!

The problem with the facade is that it doesn't relate to the sidewalk and people walking on it.  It totally assumes you are driving to the mall.  But since it's downtown in a place where walking ought to be easy and pleasant, and not on a giant suburban parking lot, its isolation this way leads to fail all the way around.

The paper's blurb is interesting, and indirectly contains ambiguous observations about Salem's demographics, and downtown.  (Is perhaps part of the outrage over the sign its reminder of the Great Recession's dominant mode of coupon-clipping and discount shopping?)
Salem’s demographics and population density, as well as the visibility of Salem Center, made the location attractive to Ross, Wong said. It will be the third Salem-area Ross store — one is at 2325 Lancaster Drive NE and the other is in Keizer Station.

Separately, Salem Center soon will begin making at least $2 million in renovations to the mall’s common areas, said Linda West, a spokeswoman for Jones Lang LaSalle Retail, the mall’s manager.

The improvements will include new soft seating, upgraded flooring, additional lighting, architectural highlights, signage and remodeled public restrooms near the Nordstrom store.
Improvements will apparently happen on the inside, but nothing to make for more permeable or inviting edge conditions along the sidewalk.

In the end, the analysis of the sign, as did considerations of the Mattingly Mural, conform too much to a single-minded focus on "what can we see from our car?" and miss the more fundamental question of, "what is it like to walk there?"

1 comment:

Curt said...

Right on! The Salem Center is a suburban 1970's style enclosed shopping mall hammered into an urban environment. Throughout the entire complex it turns its back to the street making us endure blank, windowless walls that create a giant border vacuum across a huge swath of downtown. The "gerbil runs" pull what little street activity is left off the sidewalk.