|Howard Hall at the Blind School|
|Last Year's Demolition of Clinic designed by Pietro Belluschi|
|The garden and playground doesn't have to be on the corner!|
See all that surface parking lot???
In anticipation of the hearing Thursday, the neighborhood association SCAN will hold a discussion on Wednesday. On the agenda:
Consideration of a Resolution Regarding Demolition of Howard Hall, Curt Fisher, SCAN Land Use CommitteeAlso on the agenda is news about the Lord & Schryver "home garden":
Nomination of Gaiety Hollow to the National Register of Historic Places, Jon Christenson, SCAN Parks and Gardens Committee;The South Central Association of Neighbors meets Wednesday, May 14th at 6:30 p.m. in the South Salem High School Library at 1910 Church Street SE.
At the HLC
As for the Historic Landmarks Commission, meeting on Thursday the 15th, the staff report and recommendation is dispiriting:
The proposed Garden...satisfies the criterion that the proposed use outweighs the value of retaining Howard Hall on the present site. Howard Hall stands as a memorial to the blind community...[and] The Commemorative Garden will honor the Oregon School for the Blind's history and provide a publically-accessible, adaptive playground for children of all abilities....The Hospital didn't try very hard to find an alternative use, and especially since the Hospital is a charitable non-profit, it doesn't seem like an undue hardship to ask them to bank the building for a few years while a greater effort can be made. Concluding that the garden and playground - which can be located elsewhere on the lot - "outweighs" the value of an old building seems far from certain. And once you expand "value" to include things like the energy used to build the building, the "embodied energy," the conclusion is probably false.
The applicant has estimated that the cost of improvements necessary to make the building usuable would range from $2,319,514 to $3,146,279. Additionally, the applicant has submitted a market analysis compiled by Sperry Van Ness....the average Salem medical office rent is $1.75 to $2.00 per square food. The monthly rent needed to obtain a reasonable income on Howard Hall to justify improvemetns would be $3.84 to $5.76. As noted by the applicant, an RFP was solicited in 2013, and no proposals were recieved. Therefore, a reasonable economic return cannot be generated from the adaptive reuse of Howard Hall.
...it was determined that Howard Hall cannot reasonably be moved...[and] no prudent and feasible alternative exists to rehabilitate and reuse Howard Hall....
Based on the information presented in the application, plans submitted for review, and findings as presented in this staff report, staff recommends that the Historic Landmarks Commission...approve the application [which will set the stage for a demolition permit]. [italics added to highlight demolition criteria]
In at least one way, though, the staff report echoes concerns that the Hospital could be engaged even in a bait-and-switch, promising the garden and playground and then not delivering. The staff report recommends as a condition of approving the request for demolition:
the applicant shall demonstrate to HLC staff that funding has been secured for construction of the Garden prior to the applicant applying for a demolition permit.Presumably if funding is secured, the plans will be firm and not make-believe.
It will be interesting to see what others have to say.
(For history and all notes on the Blind School redevelopment, see here.)
1) Whoops! Forgot meeting information: The Commission meets Thursday the 15th at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers, Salem Civic Center (City Hall), 555 Liberty St. SE.
2) a Statesman piece today:
|Still missing the fact that it's a huge parking lot!|
Just got word that Restore Oregon (formerly Historic Preservation League of Oregon) is floating a proposal for a land swap:
Pringle Park—away from busy Mission Street and near two tranquil bodies of water—is currently underutilized. It would be a much more appropriate location for the commemorative garden and the patients who would visit it than the site of Howard Hall.That's an interesting idea, and maybe even restoration for the Church Street Bridge could be folded into a package!
A land swap would allow Salem Hospital to demonstrate their commitment to the community by building and maintaining the garden and playground on an existing open space. Putting Howard Hall into the hands of the City would allow time to plan and fundraise for the reuse of the building as a community asset.
The full discussion and proposal is worth reading.
In a story likely going to print tomorrow, the paper also reports that parties were interested in using the building, but that the expressions of interest came after the RFP closed. [May 16th - the piece did not go to print, actually, I think]
Hospital spokesperson Cindy Wagner indicated they weren't going to do more than the minimum:
Wagner says that decision was made because the proposal came in too late — months after the request for proposals expired. In addition, even if the hospital was approached earlier, there's no way of knowing if it would have met all of the hospital's criteria....Update 3, May 16th
"People might think we should look at anything and everything if it's an opportunity to save the building," Wagner said. "We said, yes, we will do that but within this process and within these limits."
|online as posted after the meeting, and reposted on the 16th|
|in print the next day|
But several others have pointed out, there's plenty of room on the property for a garden and playground without having to put it in the footprint of a demolished Howard Hall. So the choice is a false one and creates two opposing parties who might otherwise be working together.
Still missing is the fact the nearly the whole of the proposed development is a surface parking lot.
Update 4, May 20
The piece in today's paper is like a restatement section in a symphony! It picks up old themes, develops them a little bit, but is mostly a recapitulation of old material. I was hoping for reporting that would follow-up on some of the new materials and claims at the hearing.
...the hospital tells me the community can't have both the building and the therapy garden.From here, this looks like the Hospital digging in on the false choice and the divide-and-conquer strategy. The last bit is a little bit of - if you don't agree, we'll take our toys and go home! Why, exactly why, can't "the community have both the building at the therapy garden"?
A lot of input and thought have gone into the therapy garden and playground plans. There will be written and braille signs explaining plants. Visitors would be able to learn about the history of Oregon School for the Blind via audio and visual resources. They plan to use materials from Howard Hall to build the therapy loop and entrance arch.
"It just goes back to the criteria it has to be something special to be in place of Howard Hall," Wagner said. "This will make it really special and add to the therapy [program]. If Howard Hall stays, we will not be building it."
Further, as we've noted, the Landmarks Commission can tell you what kind of windows to put in, and so how is that power inconsistent with this:
Does the Historic Landmarks Commission have the authority to tell Salem Hospital to put the therapy garden elsewhere? The short answer is no.It seems to me that the HLC can dictate significant matters of style to a homeowner in an historic district!
Assistant city attorney Maja Haium explained that would be like telling a private homeowner he or she should build a house in a particular style.
Hopefully there will be more in-depth reporting on the matter because there are genuine community values in play here.