Thursday, January 30, 2014

Apartments at Pringle Square - What about the Groceries?

Now that we've got a real project at the Boise site, we can return to some transportation matters. Assuming a person wanted to go "low-car," getting groceries in West Salem might be the easiest choice for people who move into Pringle Square at Boise.

That doesn't sound like it would make sense, as crossing the river sounds totally counter-intuitive, but as soon as you plot things on a map, it's pretty clear.

Pringle Square and Downtown Grocery Stores
There are only two grocery stores on the edges of downtown proper, and none in the core of downtown.  Grocery Outlet on the corner of an orphan stretch of D and two-way section of Commercial - more on Front Street, really - and the Safeway between Marion/Center/12th/13th.  Both, interestingly, are adjacent to railroads.

Here's the bike map:

The bike map shows lots of red and yellow!
For most people, biking downtown is not realistic,
not a comfortable or inviting prospect.
From Boise there are no obvious and easy ways to bike to either of these stores.  To reach Grocery Outlet, even if you go through Riverfront Park, you still have to contend with Front street and the railroad.

The one-way grid enforces a southward exit
To reach Safeway, it's decent going once you hit Chemeketa and the Promenade on 12th, but it's still challenging to navigate downtown streets between the Boise site and Chemeketa Street. Both traffic volumes and the one-way grid conspire to make things tricky.

Though it may not quite be the shortest distance, the lowest-stress route is to go through Riverfront Park, across the Union St Rail Bridge, and up a short bit of Glen Creek through Wallace Park - to Roths!

LifeSource and Roths offer
lower-stress connections
Going to LifeSource on middle Commercial and staying mostly off Liberty/Commercial by using a combination of sidewalks + Saginaw going south and sidewalks + Church street and Bush Park going north might also be lower stress than trying to reach Grocery Outlet or Safeway.

These difficulties with transportation facilities suggest that it will be far easier to go by car out south or out Mission rather than walking or biking.  The Boise site and our transportation system really make it difficult to make any choice other than driving a car.

In her comments at Council on Monday about the Boise project, the Mayor noted that anecdotally that it seemed most downtown rentals had waiting lists and that three condos in the 295 Church building had recently sold quickly and at or above the initial asking price.  She cited these as indications that demand is rising for downtown living.

The first slice:  Sharrows on Union and Winter, bike lanes on
High and Church, two-way conversion on cottage
Still, to make downtown living realistic for a larger proportion of people, we need to make it easy - frictionless even! - to go lower-car, and that means we need to implement the recommendations of the Downtown Mobility Study (see all posts here), including:
  • Improving Church and High Streets as a key north-south bikeway couplet
  • Completing the Union Street bikeway
Fortunately, the Downtown Advisory Board has been talking about Union Street.

Other things we need to consider include:
  • If the boardwalk design is retained, making sure there is a bike-friendly connection between Pringle Square and Riverfront Park
  • Ensuring there is adequate and secure bike parking/storage at Pringle Square, above and beyond the bare minimum required by code.
  • (Maybe we will need a grocery store in the center of downtown at some point, you think?)
And, obviously, there a whole lot more that could be done!


Mike said...

I've been thinking about urban grocery stores in Salem lately. I had been thinking that one could be built on Broadway between Market and Pine. Something like we've seen built in Portland. It seems that there is the density nearby and would keep all the people who live further north on Broadway from having to cross the Parkway to the Fred Meyers.

But as ther has been movement on the Boise site, I thought that a first floor grocery store might work there too. In combination with lane reductions, infill and the existing neighborhoods, it might be very successful. Plus it might be a good catalyst for better development north of the site.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Or a good farmer's market at the Civic Center? Agree about a small grocery in the downtown area. There used to be one and there are still plenty of vacant buildings that could be used.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I took another look at your graphics and realized what you were pointing out about the 'roaund about' route that people will need to take from the Boise development to get back to downtown. I hope the City has a plan, because you can't get anywhere going north unless you cross a very busy street without a light or crosswalk. People might be tempted to take a very dangerous route.

If we built the police station on the Window to the West property that the city already owns we could build a public skybridge that would link the two sides together and serve the added benefit of getting residents of this development across the street safely.

Anonymous said...

I believe I heard that the remodel of the McGilchrist Building (is that the right name?) on the corner of State and Liberty will have a grocery (but of course it won't have the selection of a larger Safeway or Roths). But if you are on foot or bike, it may be sufficient if your buying one bag of groceries.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Indeed, there will be a "grocery" in the McGilchrist/Roth building rehab, but as I understand it, it will be a specialty grocery, and "deli" might in some ways be a better bucket for it. In any event, as I think is mostly clear from context, I mean a full-selection grocery store rather than a specialty grocer or convenience store. That's what is necessary to support people living downtown who want a lower-car life.

I don't remember the number, but with the Boise project, there may be upwards of 300 units downtown. This is still not enough to support a grocery store, I suspect, so it is not difficult to understand why the existing ones are located on the edges. It will likely take still more housing downtown before an "anchor" type grocery finds it attractive enough to invest and open.

Still, it has been disappointing that the Boise project couldn't find a business better than a nursing home for the development. Maybe as the process matures something better, or in addition to, will come along.

It is the belief here that skybridges are not a good solution to mobility for people on foot. Note the number of crossings at 12th and Mill - even though there's an overpass there, people still want to make the crossing at street level. So the City recently put in a new crosswalk and flashing beacon. Downtown, the skybridges from the parking garages to the malls are an important element in sapping the sidewalks of vital juice: They deaden and make inert rather than enliven.

In most cases, the solution preferred here is a flavor of traffic calming rather than pedestrian displacement. Lively streets require many different kinds of traffic, not rivers of autoist monoculture. This sort-and-separate strategy is an ingredient in the "ornamental emptinesses" that people seem to admire from afar but don't actually use very often. The "Save Mirror Pond" supporters in part mistake landscape aesthetics for patterns of use. Mirror Pond is dead because there aren't enough adjacent uses with people coming and going at different times, not because people don't get that sometimes it can be "pretty." Skybridges could make people even less likely to talk along the creek and pond.

Anonymous said...

On your map you show heading south on Commercial before going north into downtown. Since you are discussing traveling via bike (or foot), why not show the use of the Pringle Creek path?


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

That's a good question and perhaps I should have discussed that explicitly.

1) The immediate connection to the path at Boise proposed to be a twisty boardwalk; then, at the Civic Center it remains City Ordinance (though largely unenforced) to prohibit bicycling on the path at Mirror Pond and through Pringle Plaza between the Post Office and Waterplace. So the path system isn't suited for or intended for bike commuting or errand running at this time.

2) Consequently, the path system is not even marked on the bike map - the system in Riverfront Park and along the 12th St. Promenade is marked, but not along Pringle Creek. (See the second clip in the post.)

3) And what does the Pringle Path connect to? We don't yet have an intersecting north-south bikeway, so even if the Pringle path were appropriate, it would be of limited utility.

4) Bikes are vehicles. They belong on the roads with complete streets. Too often path systems are also bicycle- and pedestrian-displacement systems, aimed at getting people on foot and on bike "out of the way" of cars more than they are aimed at providing safe and efficient connectivity for people on foot and on bike. The fundamental connectivity for people on bike should be in the roadway system, even if on busy roads the lanes are separated with buffers or are cycletracks.