Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pringle Square Salem Launches Web Site for Boise Redevelopment

You know things are heating up for the Boise Redevelopment project when banner ads are starting to show up around the web!

Aerial Rendering in online advertising
And yet, this is something maybe a little more remarkable.

For nothing is built yet!

The ad is for the concept, the development company and whole development, and not for any individual piece, completed or otherwise.  It is, in fact, marketing for the current iteration of the master plan.

And if you go to the link for Pringle Square Salem, you'll see a pretty fancy website.  It's worth poking around because it has a pretty good set of renderings and discusses many of the individual parts - including more contentious bits.

Has anything been done quite like this before for a development in Salem?

Site Map with pushpins keyed to comments
The site plan offers a significant level of detail.

Click on a pushpin and a detail window zooms in.

One of the pushpins discusses the issue with access off State Street
and the shared Carousel parking lot; the RR is the problem
[highlight added to sidebar]
There are still things we might wish to critique, alter, or improve in the project as it is proposed now.

The way the apartments are fenced off and seem poised to use the park as their own little playground is a little concerning.   The balance in public-private space seems off and the edge conditions insufficiently porous, active, and inviting.  There may be too many barriers and not enough connectivity.

The park and bridge add much to the apartments - but what do the apartments add to the park?  The relation seems unbalanced just now.

"Bike, Walk, and Enjoy" the Park:  It's nice to see "biking' in the lead,
but the bike facilities aren't very good, connections to downtown remain thin,
and those who don't live there might find their
enjoyment of the park diminished rather than enhanced
Still, it's a terrific move for the development team to share information and renderings. The more we can discuss this thing with fact and informed opinion, the better off the whole thing will be when it is finished.

It's not the whole picture, of course; it's not objective, it is the developer's own best case.  It's an extension of the branding and marketing.  But it's also a substantial contribution to the public conversation about a key private-public venture around which we should be united as possible, and for whose success we should all fervently wish.

And it's great to see.   Hopefully more developers will follow!

(In a potentially related matter, City Council has scheduled a work session for August 26th to discuss access issues for a Minto View LLC project.  This may be related to the Pringle Square development, but City staff have not yet confirmed this.  Anyone know for sure?)

For more on the Boise Redevelopment see all the "Boise" posts here.  Also, here's a discussion from 2010 of the access issue, with further links, as it related to the previous proposal to close the RR crossing at State Street.  

It must be stressed that access is a problem here because of the RR line, and the previous solution worse than the present one for connectivity with downtown.  The present one is not ideal, but if there was an obvious superior solution, it would have come out by now.  An improvement hinges on a non-obvious solution - and that could come from a non-obvious quarter, maybe you!


Jim Scheppke said...

SBOB, I'm surprised you don't mention the 10-year tax holiday that the developer is requesting from the city. Are you comfortable with that? And for how many more years do we have to look at the bombsite south of the bridge that is a major embarrassment to our city?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Which abatement? The one for Marquis and the nursing home? I believe Council already has said no.

As for the apartments... Well, as the abatement is written, the apartments appear to meet the criteria for the abatement. It would be nice for the City to use the abatement as leverage for a better design, but the apartments seem to meet the general intent of the program to create downtown housing.

Here, here, and here are notes on the abatement proposals in June and July.

Do you have a more specific critique of the incentives? Working out the finances of these subsidies and incentives is too complicated! We need downtown housing, and maybe this is good policy and a good use for incentives.

As for the south part, at this point it sure looks like the apartments are intended to provide the revenue to make the warehouse shell rehab possible. It would be nice for more transparency and detail on this piece from the developers. (The detail on this pushpin is slight!)

Jim Scheppke said...

There does not appear to be a "warehouse shell rehab" in the master plan as I look at it. It looks like new construction of more apartments and an office building. If that is true, the demolition of the bombsite needs to happen NOW and not a decade from now. If I blew up my house and left the wreckage for my neighbors to look at every day I don't think I would get away with that for long. What am I missing here?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's the city's official decision on the south block from early 2012.

And here, here, and here, are discussions of it.

At that time, the lower half of the redevelopment appeared to use the warehouse shell with the square-ish footprint. On that base, then, the two or three (depending on whether two are joined in an L) short towers that look like new construction would be built.

The rehab component isn't as big or as thorough we might like, but demolishing the structure now completely eliminates any reuse of that structure.

(This comes down to individual taste, I suppose, but I find the warehouse shell quite compatible with the brutalist concrete of city hall across the street!)

More seriously, the warehouse shell has seemed more like a resource to keep and to use than a eyesore and reminder and remainder of incomplete demolition. So it never occurred to me to see it as analogous to blowing up one's home and leaving the wreckage.

I have also seen the warehouse shell as a useful constraint. I worry that with a completely blank lot, the tendency will be to revert to the familiar and plop a cookie-cutter auto-dependent apartment complex there. This might be another reason not to be hasty with demolition.

I hope that a better design for the warehouse shell and south block can be envisioned, and I'm inclined to think that keeping the shell makes this more likely.

Curt said...

Cross post from Hinesight. People are calling for a more suburban style development. Indulging anti-urban NIMBYism is a bad omen for the future of downtown:

I agree with you and B on B. But both those critiques fail to acknowledge that the resistance to the development is not a call for the highest quality urbanism we can get on our waterfront. Like you, when I am with my kids at the Carousel, I gaze down the path toward the acid ball and pine for an esplanade of shops and street cafes where I can watch the sunset and people watch while my kids enjoy the playground.

Instead the criticism is a collection of the most tired NIMBY cliches, as reflected in this recent opinion:


1. There isn't enough parking! The author claims that there NEVER is enough parking! It is far more likely that, if given the opportunity, park users will spill into the apartment parking lot and not vice versa.

2. Traffic! The way State St. is built now it can easily handle 15,000 cars per day but only sees about 3000 cars per day west of Liberty. The author completely ignores that many of the largest employers (State, Salem Health, Willamette U., SAIF) will be an easy and pleasant walk away.

3. Too tall! You can't see the acid ball from Commercial! As if drivers need any more distractions on this infamous traffic sewer.

4. Residents will use the park! I would like to see more integration with the park. But critics say the barriers are not rigid enough to prevent "residents from using it for BBQs". Ya know, stuff that makes living near a park attractive.

So while I agree with your criticism, I think this development, as proposed, is a good fit for Salem right now given the anti-urban NIMBYism that is currently driving the debate. Salem is not ready for a Pearl District, but this is a solid step in that direction.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Well, there's a full page ad for Pringle Square Salem in the front section of the SJ today!

Jobs, jobs, jobs really part of the PR campaign.

Interesting also are full op-eds from Tokarski and Withnell, and LTEs from Caldarazzo-Doty and McLaren.

It's real PR campaign.

As for the opposition...

It is, as you point out Curt, terribly ironic that in the public space we call a park, BBQs might be a problem, but in the public space we call a road, cars deserve free and indefinite storage!

Even though the Carousel/Park contingent has been visible in criticism, I'm less certain that they really are anti-urban. I think it's the autoism and parking that is at the core; if the RR issue went away, and access and the disposition of parking were slightly different but everything else was the same, I wonder if we'd hear more criticism trying to push the project in more urban, mixed-use directions.

The Carousel people were really into closing the State Street entry when it was talked about in 2009, and I can't help but feel this lurks behind much of the current criticism. (Here's a note with links to that proposal and history.)

In the end, I am hopeful that it will be possible to nudge parts of the project into more forward-thinking designs and configurations. But, you might be right that this is the best we can do right now.

Laurie Dougherty said...

I don't see a problem with people living at Pringle Square using the riverfront park system. For city dwellers, parks are our backyard. That's the point.

Will the path along Pringle Creek be for public use?

Unlike Brian Hines, I'm not so interested in the "cool" factor in regard to this development. I'm more interested in places for people to live within bike/walk distance of downtown businesses, government offices and Willamette Universsity. There is plenty of vacant commercial space downtown where cool, or merely useful, things can go.

Funny that Curt used the phrase "esplanade of shops and street cafes." The Esplanade in Boston is a park along the Charles River. It truly is Boston's back yard, constantly filled with people walking, jogging, biking, playing ball or tennis, playing in the playground, going to concerts and other events at the Hatch Shell, hanging out, watching the sunset. The Esplanade connects to a linear bike path that goes upriver for miles into the suburbs, occasionally opening out into larger spaces for playgrounds, picnic areas and the like. (Same thing on the Cambridge side of the river.)

There is NO commercial activity except for a hot dog stand next to the Hatch Shell, a small ride in a Venice style gondola operation, and a canoe and kayak rental outfit. Local colleges, private clubs and community organizations have boathouses scattered along the banks for their sailing and rowing teams. That's it. For miles and miles.

The Boston Waterfront, along the harbor, is a whole other thing. It has always been highly developed, but now that there is very little shipping in or out of Boston, the old brick and stone warehouses on the wharves have been concerted into million dollar condos and offices, with a yacht club or two. Parts of the waterfront are overrun with tourists visiting the aquarium, taking harbor cruises, and looking for the best clam chowder.

To my mind Salem doesn't need gentrification. Salem needs places to live and work and play - connected by safe ways to walk and bike and a decent bus system.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Yes, the path along Pringle Creek will be totally public!

For many of us locally, Portland's Esplanade is what comes to mind - it does have some commercial activity. (The streetview has been down it, even!)

The benefit to having some commercial activity there is not just "cool factor" but that it adds additional waves of people coming for different reasons. As it is now, the park has definite lulls in the number and times of people using it. As you add different uses, more and different groups of people come for different purposes. (See this note on Jane Jacobs for more on this.) This creates much more vitality.

(Not entirely related, but your mention of concerts recalls the fact that Salem's big theater, the Pentacle, has its theater way out in the hinterlands off highway 22. Even if it is an element of gentrification, wouldn't it be nice to have some arts venues on or near the waterfront?)

Curt said...

I did notice the PR blitz. The COC is vigorously promoting walkable urban living downtown! Even if motivated by profit, they have decided it is a marketable commodity.

Meanwhile some of the talking points of the parking mafia are: "We can't make people bike downtown" and "parking meters killed downtown Detroit".

Its as if we have entered a parallel universe.

Anonymous said...

Here's part of an old news story from the Oregoninan on the sale that gives more of the history - December 27, 2007:


SALEM -- Salem investors have bought a 13-acre industrial site for a key waterfront development in the city's downtown.

Mayor Janet Taylor said the two, Larry Tokarski and Dan Berrey, will turn the former Boise Cascade paper-converting plant site into a mix of housing, businesses and public areas.

Boise Cascade...said in June that it had agreed to sell its 13-acre property to an undisclosed buyer.

As industrial property, it had been assessed at nearly $4 million. The purchase price was not immediately disclosed.

"We are lucky to have two local investors who believe in Salem enough to take risks and tackle big challenges," Taylor said at a news conference today....

Taylor said plans would reflect ideas developed in 2006 by the Urban Lands Institute, which studied the property to determine its best use....

Access could be a problem. The site is divided by railroad tracks. Citing safety and liability concerns, state transportation officials and Portland & Western Railroad officials have said they would not allow public at-grade crossings.

Tim Gerling, who retired as city public works director Dec. 3, is joining the development team to coordinate with local and state agencies. He told the Salem Statesman Journal that he had studied the crossing questions in his public role and said no solution had been arrived at.

Anonymous said...

Interesting bits in the paper today:

"In 2007, Boise Cascade closed its downtown Salem plant site, and by the end of that year the Mountain West Investment Corp. had bought the 13-acre property for $7.25 million....

One idea discussed in 2011 was to build a new access road from Front Street, going across the railroad tracks and into the park. A state prohibition on adding more at-grade crossings meant that the city would have had to close the State Street crossing. The city secured a permit from the state to close the crossing, but it lapsed in 2011. City officials and the developer blamed each other for the failure of this option....

[T]he [new access] road would be flanked on the parking lot side by a 4-foot-tall fence and hedges to prevent children from running onto the road. Moore also said that by angling the parking spaces, the lot would gain 14 new spots even though its square footage would shrink. Seven of those spaces would be in front of the proposed retail shopping at the edge of the apartments....

“I’ve been very, very clear with them that I am opposed to this,” Councilor Chuck Bennett said. “To ask us to degrade so dramatically the access, the safety and the ambiance of the riverfront carousel makes this just a non-starter for me ... We would clog our State Street entrance and exit to the park with the residences of a large apartment complex.”

Mountain West’s traffic impact analysis states that the apartments would create about 870 new trips per day. Moore emphasized that although it’s a significant jump in activity, most of those trips would occur during times that the park isn’t heavily used. For example, he pointed out that most people drive to work between 7 and 8 a.m. and the carousel doesn’t open until 10 a.m. on weekdays."

Anonymous said...

Interesting...the Oregon City Blue Heron Mill site has sold:


"The former Blue Heron mill site, one of the most challenging yet promising commercial properties in Oregon, soon will be in the hands of California development company.

The deadline for submitting bids on the 23-acre site next to Willamette Falls passed Wednesday with no one challenging the $4.1 million offer Eclipse Development Group made in June.

Blue Heron Paper Co. filed for bankruptcy and closed in February 2011. The company's assets -- except for the mill site -- have been sold by a court-appointed trustee.

The property has been on the market for more than two years but selling the land -- wedged between the Willamette River and Oregon 99E -- has been no easy task. A tangle of regulatory, environmental and economic issues complicated the marketing effort by trustee Peter McKittrick."

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the news links! Lots of angles to consider in them.

One thing that leaps out...the Oregon City site is so much bigger, and the RR here was a known issue - so was the $7.25 a significant overpay for a site with real challenges?