|Nearly the whole Civic Center Superblock looking west|
from above Waterplace
The Eugene Side - A Flawed, Car-Dependent Site
But how is the Eugene side of the argument any better? In fact, it's much, much worse!
The Eugene model is a discount solution that likely harbors long-term operational costs in a trade for short-term capital and bond savings. Worse, it hinders rather than boosts "neighborhoods, livability, prosperity, and citizen involvement."
|Between an interstate and a highway access road (a stroad)|
the Eugene station is totally car-dependent
Proponents of the Eugene model have already made a point about costs. There is some sense in which the Eugene site is clearly cheaper in bonded capital costs - though the numbers for the savings have been extraordinarily difficult to pin down. See these two exchanges, for example. Proponents cannot settle on the amount of savings they want to claim - instead, it's more like the gassy claims in a vintage beer ad: Tastes great! Less filling!
The other side of the argument, that the Eugene model offers significantly higher longer-term operational costs has not been addressed. If proponents of the Eugene model think these operational costs are insignificant, they should say why and in detail. (See below for update on these operational costs.)
In any event, a police station in Salem sited on the Eugene model would probably be located between Lancaster and I-5, or perhaps near I-5 on Mission. It's difficult to see how such a site assists "neighborhoods, livability, prosperity, and citizen involvement."
The Civic Center - The Mystery of Enthusiasm for its Desolation
At least the Eugene model has an obvious attraction in its cheapness.
What is really difficult to understand, is the odd enthusiasm for barren spaces harbored by critics of the City's proposal. Why so much love for Peace Plaza and Mirror Pond?
The contrary point, that Peace Plaza doesn't work, has already been addressed here. Peace Plaza is a non-functioning public space and we should be happy to seize the opportunty to reconfigure it. The City's plan, in fact, on this matter is too timid, and doesn't change it enough! (There's that "meh.")
Instead of treating their perspective as self-evident, supporters of Peace Plaza as it currently is should spend some time making the case that it is so wonderful. Have they really spent much time in Peace Plaza or watching it and considering it? Critics of the City's proposal may not understand how much of an afterthought Peace Plaza really is at the moment for most people in Salem.
In fact, critics of the City's concept may like the idea of Peace Plaza more than the reality - and, crucially, the idea of Peace Plaza is portable, capable of being relocated and improved. A Civic Center upgrade could package a relocation and serious upgrade for Peace Plaza and the parts of its sculpture that are critical. Wouldn't a Peace Plaza more central in space and in mind be something to get behind? (Give Peace a Chance, eh?)
|At 5pm on a sunny-but-cold weekday, the north plaza is totally dead.|
While you don't expect people to be sitting in the cold,
you'd expect people walking in it.
The plaza on the north side of City Hall is also desolate, and does not function as a good public space. We should want to fill it with people - either as a new building or as an improved public space. At least the City's' proposal does the former.
And what is it about Mirror Pond people like so much? It's gross!
|"Mirror" Pond is scummy|
|Grass and new soil building up in the spillway|
|This odd grid of trees and grass could be replaced|
by new Council Chambers; few use it as it is.
|Even for the National Night Out Party,|
the Atrium and Chambers are shadowy, dark and heavy.
And look at those massive, medieval doors to Chambers!
Really, folks want to keep this???
And, really, that's no vision.
What Critics of the City Proposal Get Right
|Comments by Critics|
- Why isn't a seismic retrofit for the Library included?
- What about using the City-owned lot to the west, the lot where all the military-grade SWAT equipment is held?
- What about leveraging the Boise parcel? (Though fears about a "canyon" on Commercial street seem overblown vis-a-vis the car-dependent sprawl of the Eugene model; at least a canyon could be somewhat walkable, especially if some ground-floor amenities, even retail, were included in the Police Station design.)
- Since disaster preparedness is a large motivation for this, are we best served by a single, central police station? How much redundancy should be built into police services? (Of course, if we decide that multiple-site redundancy, like with fire stations, is important, then that makes the project more, rather than less, costly.)
- Parking. Yeah. Parking garages, whether underground or above-ground, are expensive. Let's talk more about parking and temporary car storage! In fact, let's make sure we connect this analysis to talk about our downtown parking garages and the debate over metered on-street parking downtown. We need to talk a whole lot more about the cost of parking!
In the end, there very well might need to be more design work.
But why do critics dig in on a discount, Walmart-style solution that is hopefully "good enough" instead of asking, "how can to do this well?"
What is it about Salem that excludes quality and doing things well?
Update, December 1st - Eugene model harbors $18 million in hidden costs
A reader digging into the City's reports shares the location of this clip!
|A Eugene-style site would add $18M over a 50 year life!|
So when critics talk about a $17 million Eugene facility, we immediately should add this $18 million = $35 million. Critics point to the $23 million "Police Wing" at the Civic Center, and a $13 million parking structure and - Wait, that $36 million! We're totally in the same ballpark.
This is strong evidence that the Eugene model would not yield dramatic savings.
Update No. 2, Dec 1st
It turns out the project team has done due dilligence and investigated a Eugene-style solution.
|Analysis of Eugene-style Police Station|
adaptive reuse of vacant Safeway
|Vacant Safeway on South Commercial -|
(rotated 90 degrees clockwise, north is right)
Let's call it $8 million in savings. Nowhere close to $30 million.
Note that existing businesses on the right (north) of the Safeway would be asked to move and the buildings demolished for parking up to the Roth's lot line on the northeast corner and the tavern on the northwest corner. The Safeway building itself would still not be big enough and require a new building on the left (south) side. Others have noted that there aren't many vacant buildings in Salem big enough for this project.
As for that $8 million in savings, it is definitely the position here that it does not outweigh the social costs and other hard costs of:
- A less compact and more sprawly development means a less walkable and livable development
- More back-n-forth driving and greenhouse gas emissions
- Other than the driving itself, there's the personnel time for driving and greater operational costs for the Police themselves
- Disruption to existing businesses
- The opportunity cost for private enterprise sometime to take over the Safeway site and generate internal profits, payroll, and public property taxes.
- (Maybe you can think of more?)
At best it would deliver small savings.
Update No. 3, Dec 1st
This isn't directly relevant to the current debate, but it at least gives concrete detail to the City's investigations. Here are the locations of the other two sites analyzed:
|An O'Brien Parcel|
|O'Brien parcel in car-dealer land at Division and Commercial|
The City hopes for higher-density mixed-use development
|Rose Garden Parcel|
|Former Rose Garden Motel on Portland Road|
(See history of motel here and here for a zoning change)
- The Civic Center
- A car dealership close-in, just north of downtown
- A vacant grocery store farther out on "middle Commercial"
- A green field far out on Portland Road