|The Boise parcel and slab over the creek|
Even in winter the water is irresistable!
More on the quid pro quo:
The Developer has indicated a willingness to sell the Property to the City if the Developer is able to determine that development plans for the remainder of the former Boise Cascade site are feasible. If the Developer is unable to develop the remainder of the former Boise Cascade site according to their Master Plan (Attachment C), the Developer desires to retain the Property in order to preserve maximum development flexibility in the future.(Though what really does this mean? If the land is so encumbered by the prospect of a Federal review for non-park uses, what is its market value? Surely the price in the deal on the table represents an overpay by the City and an indirect element of subsidy. How significant really is the "maximum development flexibility" in the shadow of the Federal review?
Maybe it doesn't matter what "really" is the case. Pretty much we all want the project to move forward, right? And the reality is, it's not going to happen without some application of emollient. The City has made far worse investments. If you think this is too much subsidy, please drop a comment!)
So, what about the design? I think at this point the only think I really want to address is the way the design treats people on foot. (Previous thoughts here and here.)
Commercial Street Sidewalk Environment
The redevelopment still doesn't embrace the sidewalk with much enthusiasm. Behind the urban setting, it's still auto-oriented.
|The edges along Commercial Street will be inert and dusty,|
the concrete bowels of a parking garage at street level.
For an analogous situation, see the Marion Parkade along Marion Street:
|The Marion Parkade shows the street level environment for walking|
at the Boise project: Blank, inert, dusty, not very inviting
A really fine version of a Boise project would have a focus on street-level attractors on Commercial for people on foot. This is its greatest deficiency, I think.
Because the project previously went through only an administrative design review, it is not known whether there are significant changes or whether a second round of administrative review was necessary. Even though the City doesn't require a public design review for it, it would have been nice to open the process because of the special nature and compelling public interest in the success of the project.
|Boardwalk detail - not for bicycling, really|
And are there any connections from Commercial?
When I first encountered the idea earlier this week, I was bummed that path wouldn't go down along the creek bank. But in thinking about this, I remembered High Line Park in Manhattan. In some significant ways it's a similar concept - maybe even a model:
|High Line Park, New York City|
Iwan Baan, Friends of High Line Park
Probably the same kind of thing here. The design is winning me the more I think about it. If it's handled right, not in every place made too pretty, it could connect people with the former industrial nature of the site in a really direct way.
You know: Gritty charm. We have ugly grit and pretty charm, but Salem doesn't have much gritty charm. Take the eco-earth acid-ball thing: They painted away any gritty charm, leaving it cute, but neutered!
Here's an older iteration of the path for comparison:
|In October 2009, the concrete slab intended to be gone|
Funding and Tax Abatement
It looks like funding this out of parks SDC funds will not short-change other proposed park acquisition and/or improvements. In an email to a constituent, Councilor Dickey indicated she was satisfied that it would not rob Ward 5 of nice things:
Unfortunately, due to state law, we are limited where we can spend the funds, and most areas in Ward 5, and many throughout the city that are lacking parks also do not qualify for sdc funding, which is calculated by a complicated formula of new development, growth and a few other factors. So I don't have concerns there, and in fact, that was the first question I asked when I heard about the project.Presumably this holds true in the other wards, and so maybe this is even a good use for SDC funds.
As for the tax abatement, see notes on the nursing home's request (and here). That was a bad idea, and was denied last I heard.
For this request, even if you think the tax abatement is a bad idea, the project satisfies the requirements as the abatement is written, and there is no good reason to deny it - other than a philosophical opposition to the concept in general.
The project is supposed to meet some "public benefits" and the ones it identifies are all plausible! An important one is transit. With close proximity to the Liberty/Commercial couplet, and not far from the transit mall, this is much better served by transit than the "park parcel" apartments, and you could go lower-car, at least by Salem standards, here. The project isn't necessarily going "above and beyond" but it's also not "stretching" things the way the "park parcel" apartments sometimes did.
|Expected rents from $714 to $1,650|
1. Unit sales prices or rental rates accessible to a broad range of mixed incomesSo no LEED, no low-income housing component, no fancy architecture - how critical is any of this? Not really.
2. Day care facilities;
3. Facilities supportive of the arts;
4. Facilities for the handicapped (the Project will comply with ADA requirements, including the provision of handicapped accessible units and spaces);
5. Special architectural features;
6. Service or commercial uses which are permitted and needed at the project site but not available for economic reasons;
7. Dedication of land or facilities for public use;
8. Development on sites with existing single-story commercial structures;
9. Development on existing surface parking lots;
10. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification by the Green Building Council of the project;
In the end this is pretty much exactly the kind of development the abatement was designed to encourage. All of us will benefit when there are more people downtown. (But again it would be interesting to read a detailed financial analysis of the return-on-investment of this kind of thing to see if the payoff is more general "cultural vitality" downtown or if it will have a measurable financial return.)
(For all previous notes on the Boise project, see here.)
There's a bunch of right-of-way acquisition for the Brown Road project. (Just to note in passing.)
An update on the road bond projects. There didn't seem to be anything new or surprising in it, but some of the sidewalk, pedestrian median, and other bike/walk elements are finally getting designed and some look to be constructed this summer. So good news there.
Brief updates on "Economic Development" activities, including toolbox grants/loans and EPA-brownfields assessment program. But neither of the reports have enough detail for any significant observations. No list, for example, of toolbox grant or loan recipients. These are ususally in tens or hundreds of thousands, and the City estimates at least in the Riverfront-Downtown area that they leverage 5.4 private dollars for every public dollar. See the August 12th meeting for a more detailed list of some Enterprise Zone tax abatements, several of which are mentioned again in Monday's report. (And, again, someone with finance chops should go through these and really see if we can tell how much they really return on the investment!)
And two audits on part of the Urban Renewal Agency (all financial reports can be seen here): A compliance report on Federal grants, and a giant Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (tl;dr). Here also someone with finance chops should read these, analyze 'em, and blog about them.
(If you're interested in the cel phone towers, Salem Weekly has two pieces, here and here.)