Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In the Neighborhood Associations

Leading in the neighborhood associations this week are several presentations by critics of the proposed Civic Center and Police Station project.

A Possible City Hall and Police Station Configuration
Image: CB|Two
Here's the list of presentations:
JANUARY 7 TUESDAY 6.30 TO 8.30 P.M. NEN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (at First Nazarene Church) Gene Pfeifer presentation

JANUARY 8 WEDNESDAY 6.30 TO 8.30 P.M. SCAN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (at South Salem High School ) Gene Pfeifer presentation

JANUARY 9 THURSDAY 7.00 TO 8.30 P.M. SESNA NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (at Wesleyan Church community center on Mill St at 17th.) Gene Pfeifer presentation

JANUARY 14 TUESDAY 10.00 A.M. TO 12.00 SEMCA NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (at Paradise Mobile Home Park, Turner Rd.) Gene Pfeifer presentation

JANUARY 21 TUESDAY NOON TO 1.00 P.M. SOUTH SALEM ROTARY (at Salem Golf Club) Geoffrey James presentation
I'm still not buying the claim that "Salem Community Vision has shown that an off site location saves $33 million."
Two proposals, side by side
City alternative using car lot on left
Salem Community Vision SWAG on right
Come on, this isn't much more than a SWAG - a "scientific wild ass guestimate." Maybe it's accurate, maybe it's not. But for people who lack experience in estimating architecture and construction costs - ie, most of us -, there is no reason, beyond the emotional satisfaction of wishing something cost less, to prefer it over the City's vastly more detailed estimates. On the merits, the City has the stronger case.

A critic might reasonably say, "Well, the City has inflated its numbers." 

If that's true, why don't critics dig in and show exactly how the City inflated those numbers!  Show your work!  Geez, why is this debate such a struggle?  If the City is wrong, it shouldn't be that difficult to make a strong case they are talking out of their own nether regions.

Over at Hinessight there's a longer discussion of a reply to several questions posed here.  On most of them even if we might disagree on details, there's probably a center where reasonable people can disagree, where compromise is possible and even likely, and it is probably not very useful stay on those topics.  Besides we've talked them to death here for the moment. 

A commenter on another post also pointed out a piece on Portland's Emergency Coordination Center. Some - or perhaps even many - of the siting decision points there might be very relevant here.  Has the City, for example, addressed the soil type and probability of liquefaction at the Civic Center site?

The critics' preferred option seems to be to explore possibilities on the empty lot on Liberty - the "SWAT Lot," where police store their military equipment - across the street from City Hall.  It will be interesting to watch this concept mature and to see what emerges from it.  On the surface it's a reasonable idea.  And, in turn, it will be interesting to see whether the City deepens, modifies, or otherwise changes course on its own analysis of non-Civic-Center sites.

Other topics of possible interest...

Northeast Neighbors

NEN meets Tuesday the 7th at 6:30pm in the Salem First Church of the Nazarene, 1550 Market Street NE.

Draft meeting minutes from December indicate a no-show by the attorney for discussion of the Ice Cream plant on State Street. That conversation will likely continue.


Morningside meets Wednesday the 8th at 6:30 p.m. in the Pringle Creek Community Painters Hall, 3911 Village Center Drive SE.

The draft minutes contain an interesting bit about the possibility of a new park at Fairview!
Sam Hall with Sustainable Fairview has been discussing with the City the possibility of a community park in the horseshoe of the former Fairview Training Center. A community park would provide some sports fields and possibly use one or two of the existing buildings. These discussions are at a very early stage.

SCAN meets Wednesday the 8th at 6:30 p.m. in the South Salem High School Library, 1910 Church St SE.

In the draft minutes is a note that the Hospital didn't get any proposals for Howard Hall. Hopefully this will not be a prelude to demolition.


SESNA meets Thursday the 9th at 7:00 p.m. in the Capital Park Wesleyan Church, 410 19th St SE.

Cobbling notes from both the NEN and SENSA draft minutes: Apparently there exist 5% (conceptual) draft plans for a five-lane cross-section on McGilchrist. This would take the current two-lane + unimproved shoulder profile and transform it to sidewalks, bike lanes, two through lanes, and a center turn lane. That's a lot! Because of all the industrial trucks and stuff, it's easy to see why a center turn lane would be useful - but two through-lanes in each direction??? That seems like overkill. Something to research. Apparently there's also a concept for a stop light on 12th at the intersection of 12th and McGilchrist.

Did you see anything else on the agendas that piqued your interest?


Curt said...

You're right, there's not anything more to say. But I can't help myself so...

I clicked on the Beaverton link from awhile back and noted that the estimate for their police station was also $35mil.

I see all the specious and contradictory claims made by SCV and I think that they are just philosophically opposed to building on the civic center site. No amount of facts or studies or analysis, even if they craft themselves, are going to change their minds about that. They continue to cite the ULI study even though it wasn't the product of an open process, didn't include any citizen representation, and the members of the steering committee (yes I know their names) opposed key elements of it as members of Pringle Access. They made up their minds at the first meeting what outcome they wanted and drew up the back of the envelope swag to support it. Group think is a bad way to make policy.

To the extent that it represents a policy choice, its the Strong Towns ponzi scheme at work--trading short term gains for long term liabilities.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Interesting debate up north!

Portland Architecture:
City Council considers demolishing the Portland Building, nation's first work of postmodern architecture

Portland Building: Four commissioners, four approaches for dealing with Portland's $95 million 'white elephant'

SW Oregon Architect:
The Perils of Building Cheaply

THA Architecture:
Tear that Landmark down!! …or maybe…don’t?

Unknown said...

Salem Breakfast on Bikes needs an explanation from Salem Community Vision on how they came up with a projected $33 million in savings compared to the City's proposed $70.5 project costs for the Civic Center. So here it is.
In August 2013 City of Salem Staff reported to the City Council and showed them the projected costs.
Their Proposal involves a $20M+ Police Facility Building plus $12M + underground parking garage.
Council Chambers has to be moved, Mirror Pond drained, and all Trees removed. Here are their numbers from August.
$32.1M Police Facility
$4.8M Site Work
$12.6M City Hall Upgrades
$1.3M Community Chambers
$10.0M Soft Costs (fees etc.)
$9.7M Cost Escalation to 2017
So here is Salem Community Vision's Alternative Solution.
Police Facility is located on another site with surface parking and a fence. SCV cost estimators are the ones that saved $35M on the Courthouse Square Fix, and this is what they do professionally.
$20.0M Police Facility (somewhere on an arterial)
$0.0M Site Work (nothing is needed at Civic Center)
$12.0M City Hall Upgrades $6M seismic and $6M remodel
$0.0M Council Chambers (not demolished)
$3.0M Soft Costs (fees etc.)
$2.5M Cost Escalation to 2017

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks, Geoffrey!

It would be helpful to argue from the City's more detailed estimates rather than the bare-bones SWAG you are currently using.

For example, the City consistently used $278/square foot for new building costs. If this number is high to you, why? And what gives you confidence that it is inflated?

To drill into a couple more details:

1) What gives you confidence to reduce soft costs from $10 to $3M? Or maybe another way of putting it is, given that costs nearly always rise on large projects, how confident are you that your figure can be kept to $3M? The city's number breaks down soft costs as: 10% Architecture/Engineering fees, 2% City Project management, Permit and testing fees totaling $650,000, Fixtures and Furnishings for 5%, and Bond expense of 1.5%. Can you get all this in your $3M? Has the City unnecessarily padded their estimate? If so, how?

2) Why is there a disparity on cost escalation numbers? If it's proportional, shouldn't your cost escalation should be half of the City's, not a quarter? So you are using a different escalation factor, and it would be helpful to know why.


This is the level of detail that would make a critique of the City's estimates credible here. Many are not necessarily confident that the City is right, I must say, but we are a lot more confident in their numbers than in those from SCV right now.

The 1982 Portland Building has functioned poorly and is at risk of demolition in no small part because it was built on the cheap. There is some evidence that our own City Hall and Library was built on the cheap. I worry that SCV is now advocating for a cheap solution that will not last any longer than the Portland Building or our own City Hall. (And, to be clear, many of us and elsewhere think it should be a value to design and build public buildings to last longer than 30 or 40 years - is a Eugene-style solution really up for the long haul?)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Additionally, and this is separate from the numbers, you say "Council Chambers has to be moved, Mirror Pond drained, and all Trees removed" as if it is self-evident that these would be bad things.

In a separate FB post, another has said "I know that the Plaza and the Pond are worth saving."

This seems like an article of faith, a first principle, rather than a conclusion reached after analysis or argument.

On the contrary, there are strong reasons to think that Peace Plaza is a failed public space, that Mirror Pond is a lousy water feature, and that adjacent land-use and transportation decisions have made the Civic Center into a barren and badly underused set of buildings and spaces.

It would be helpful for SCV to advance an argument for saving Peace Plaza and maintaining the Civic Center as-is rather than insisting on it as a first principle. (I know that there is a welcome discussion about foot carts at Mirror Pond over at Hinessight. That's a fine idea, but by itself will not transform the Civic Center. It is the argument here that larger structural changes are necessary, not merely internal changes to lipstick and furniture.)

Curt said...

You nailed it SBOB. The disparities in soft costs are glaring. Last night at SCAN Gene Pfeiffer also claimed that the city has not included cost escalation their estimate and said they would add $15mil to the cost. Another provably false statement and contradicts what James posted above.

$0 for Council Chambers? It sits on silts and is the most vulnerable structure on the civic center site. If SCV thinks it should be saved then it needs to spend the money to reinforce it.

Various SCV documents both support removing the roof over the atrium and criticize the proposed atrium removal but SCV has budgeted nothing for either its seismic reinforcement or it removal.

SCV budgets nothing for the existing parking structure which needs a minimum of $2mil. as it sits right now. It will need much more to seismically reinforce so it can hold up council chambers (if it must be preserved). It will take $?mils. to decommission it.

SCV budgets $0 for the library.

Yes, the former Capitol Auto site meets the project criteria and is available for the same price as the Eugene police station. We have no idea if it can be remodeled for $10mil. But its plausible and it sounds reasonable that it should be explored.

But would SCV even accept the findings of such a study? Their track record suggests they would not. The SCV message is politically very popular. They are telling people exactly what they want to hear. But the project team doesn't have that luxury.

Curt said...

My own SWAG (using all city numbers):

Full seismic on city hall=$6.2mil.

SWAG estimate for library=$5mil.
SWAG estimate for atrium roof and council chambers=$5mil.
SWAG estimate for parking structure=$5mil.

Total SWAG estimate for SCV proposals=$15 mil. on civic center.

Renovated off-site policy facility (less SWAGy):

$238 per square foot (from city alt. site assessment) X 74,000 square feet = $17,612,000

$17.6mil. + $15mil. = 32.6mil.

It is plausible that the SCV hypothesis yields no significant savings at all. Even if savings can be realized, going for a bond that could underfund the project by 47% is a huge risk.

Curt said...

Oh yeah. I forgot to buy a building. Add $10mil. for the Capitol Auto site. The city used $4mil. in their site assessment. This is a number that is DEflated in the city estimates.

Curt said...

The former Capitol Auto building has been demolished. I just drove by it.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the update on the demolition as well as the counter-swags!

M. Rose tweeted earlier today about an article for tomorrow's paper on what I believe is the Northgate request to use the Rose Gardens/Epping parcel. It will be interesting to read more about this and to see if the fact that one of the four alternatives does in fact use this site gets any ink.