Monday, February 3, 2014

Checking in on Edgewater and Eola Projects - And More Vintage Electro-Matic Boxes

The Salem River Crossing is heating up again - we'll have a cranky post about that in the next day or two, but in the meantime, see N3B for more - and it seemed like a good time to check out some of the road construction and streetscape improvements in the vicinity of the proposed bridge footprint.

Wayfinding blades and crosswalk bulb-outs
In several places along Edgewater, the City and West Salem Urban Renewal Area have installed wayfinding and identity blades. Many of them are on improved crosswalks with curb extensions to shorten the crossing distance.

Magrittian Welcome and Information Sign
The larger maps with historic information on the flipside have also been continued here. They highlight the Falls City and Western rail line, the development of Kingwood and West Salem generally, and the history of fruit processing.

1911 Ad for Kingwood Park development
The history of land speculation and its relation to major transportation initiatives - well, it shouldn't be too hard to see the parallels.

There was an unexpected bonus, tucked in between the highway and Edgewater:  More Electro-Matic boxes!  There were at least three, and maybe a fourth (we lost count!).

Electro-Matic Box at Kingwood Avenue by old City Hall
This light-colored one has had a new lock drilled and installed, and there's something that looks like a much more modern antenna mounted on top of it.  So it seemed like it might be in use today.  (We'll update when we hear back from Public Works!)

Another Electro-Matic box by the highway
Up the hill, the Eola Drive widening project had been completed, at least in part.

Eola Drive before - via the google

Eola Drive after - complete sidewalks and bike lanes
It will be interesting to hear what others have to say about it, but of all the streets that have gone from an "unimproved" two-lane cross section to a modern "urban standard" of three lanes with turn pocket, sidewalks, bike lanes, and gutters, this one has seemed like the most obviously defensible. With all the existing residential development, the curves and rises, and the lack of sidewalks and bike lanes, the turn pockets don't seem so crazy here.

But will the wider road encourage speeding?  In almost every case, when you create that "forgiveness" for drivers, speeds tick up.  So it will be interesting to see if residents start asking for traffic calming.

Especially if you live in West Salem, do you have an opinion about the Eola project?

One casualty of it seemed to be this house at Eola and Kingwood Drive

Now there's an asphalt slab and communications boxes here
It was demolished or moved and replaced by a paved mini-lot and grass.  The lot looked like it might have been used to stage construction, and now there's mounted a cluster of communications switching boxes or the like.

At the foot of Eola, there's a cluster of new businesses on Edgewater:  In the old Key Bank building, Nancy's Burgers went in, apparently replacing a Quiznos; the Urban Grange coffee house and West Side Taphouse and Growler Fill went on on the riverside strip mall.

The growler fill is a fascinating trend.  Will it be like cupcakes or something more enduring?  It is telling, though, that such a large proportion of the expansion of craft beer in Salem right now is not following the Venti's model of neighborhood dining and pub, but is essentially drive-thru beer.  Even though the growler fill businesses have seating, they are located in strip malls, they have minimal decor, and they are fundamentally structured for "to go" business. They are not part of the formation of walkable neighborhoods so much as confirmation of Salem's auto-centrism.  At the same time, they are co-locating with food purveyors and allow people to bring in food, and so they offer a smaller, more flexible unit of entrepreneurship.  Will these fill stations develop into something more interesting, or will they be a dead-end?

As for the coffee house, it is impossible not to point out that any semantic combination of Grange + Strip Mall = something profoundly untrue to history.  That's a real malapropism! ("Put a bird on it" marketing, I suppose?)

Mel's Stoves closed recently; a year ago in this image it was still open
In any case, there's action at the parking lot dominated Eola Drive end of Edgewater, the newer end, but the more walkable and sidewalk oriented center and Wallace-end of Edgewater still languishes it seemed.


Lee said...

My friends and I have been talking a lot about all the growler stations opening. While we all like drinking good beer, none of these places seems to do it for us. Strip-molly, auto-oriented and just seem to have a sterile vibe. We need more true neighborhood pubs! f/Stop comes to mind

Laurie Dougherty said...

Just taking the name, the Urban Grange strikes a cord with City Feed & Supply, a trendy (actually there are two) mini-market with coffee and sandwich shop in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. City Feed is not in strip mall, it's in a dense urban area with mostly older housing stock, including many beautiful Victorian houses now divided into apartments and condos (my son's condo is in one in a garret under a mansard roof).

For several years I lived in JP in a 3 decker, a very common residential type in Boston. You see street after street lined with them - 3 stories with identical apartments on each floor. They date to the early 20th century and were built for working class people, often immigrants, and often housing multiple generations of families.

JP is very walkable, bikeable, transit rich, and nearly surrounded by the largest parks in the Olmsted-designed Emerald Necklace. When I lived there in the 1990s and early 2000s, JP was funky, multicultural, creative and affordable. Then the housing bubble came. Like many people and (small neighborhood businesses), I was gentrified out of JP. Now it's hipster heaven and City Feed was one of the harbingers of hipness.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

A critic of the Eola project has posted quite a lot of images from before, during, and after the construction. See here.

They're also very concerned about run-off impacts to Turnage Brook and attendant land-slide risk.