Thursday, August 14, 2014

NEN-SESNA Looking Forward: Residential Possibilities and more Walkable Neighborhoods

The Economic Opportunities and Housing Needs (EOA-HNA) group meets later this month, and one of the big things they're discussing is the supply of land for business and homes.

Development and growth on the car-dependent edges
(from the May slide deck)
A lot of the potential residential land is on the edge of the city - but does it have to be?

The "Looking Forward" study for the NEN-SESNA neighborhoods has identified opportunity sites, and three of them offer significant possibilities for urban, close-in residences.

Three potential mixed-use centers
The North Campus of the State Hospital, a reconfigured State Street, and the cannery and languishing industrial development off of Oxford Street between 14th and 21st all offer possibilities for mixed-use redevelopment, including higher-density residences.

Places like these, and not up in the hills of West Salem, are where we should make it attractive for State employees and others who work in or near downtown!

And there are other sites outside of the NEN-SESNA areas: the north waterfront downtown, the O'Brien automotive parcels, the area along Commercial and Liberty between Bush park and and the river, and the Fairview parcels.

There's actually a lot of land where we can put people if we are willing to have some higher density and street-car scaled mixed-use development. Up instead of out is a real opportunity.

It will be interesting to see the way this feeds into the EOA-HNA process.

The next meeting of the EOA/HNA Advisory Committee is on Thursday, August 21st at 5:30 PM in the Salem Public Library, Anderson Room. Once the agenda and other meeting notes are out there may be more to say.

Here's the NEN opportunities map, the SESNA opportunities map, and the annotated key to all 12 of the labeled opportunities, including the three highlighted here.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

One of the reasons that Market Street had an overlay zone and was not directly re-zoned to a higher density back in the 90's was because residents did not want to see more degredation of the existing neighborhood. Commercial development was to be curtialled at Evergreen Street. The idea is to keep the street as is, because if you make it wider it will be even less livable and too hard to cross safely.

The trouble is that an overlay zone creates insecurity about the area's future. Home owners have a tendency not to want to make improvements less they find themselves having to pay for street upgrades or be bought out by the city. Overlay zones are really a cruel way to make decisions.

The City policy is to put higher density along arterial streets so that people can use mass transit. However, the reality is that you get Lancaster Drives where most people just use their cars because it is too hard to walk or ride in the area. We kill a few people every year on Lancaster because it is too wide to safely cross. The more we widen streets the more we make them unlivable.

Sometimes we just have to leave things alone and look other places.

What I do like is the idea of going up instead of out. There are a lot of opportunities for putting housing above businesses, if the codes were more flexible and if the development community had greater vision. They are doing fantastic stuff in Lake Oswego and other communities that would be wonderful to see on State Street

Anonymous said...

Susann, that is the problem with a lot of jurisdictions especially ours though. They always assume that with higher density comes larger wider streets. It's actually backwards thinking, look at Portland which has some very high density areas, the streets are actually quite small. The point is that if you make a town walkable, bikeable, and have a good mass transit system you don't need to increase car use just because you increase the density of the population

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Totally agree with you Anonymous. I have argued for years as to why the City planners here in Salem insist that a major arterial has to be wide and fast and serve multiple uses. Why cna't we have a street that is designed to just do two or three things? Like it can be a way to get from point A to Point B, have a bus line on it, and be built like a highway. Or it can be walkable, bike friendly, have a bus line and a few cars on two lanes. We call these minor arterials or collectors. The difference is the width of the street of course as a start.

In the mid-1990's there was a study done on Lancaster Drive. Some of the suggestions made during that study are now being incorporated. They included pedestrian islands, removing driveways, controlled access, and moving bike lanes to adjacent streets. All of these ideas cost a lot of money to retrofit. We need to make sure that we do not built stupic stuff, so that in a couple of decades taxpayers have to go back and pay more to remove or fix it!

This is why I argue that we should not be allowing commercial development along Cordon Road and Keubler Road that were originally intended to serve the purpose of getting to point A to point B quickly.

Laurie Dougherty said...

I've lived in Salem almost exactly three years now and had visited my daughter here many times before I retired and moved here from Boston, MA (which by the way is notorious for narrow, windy streets even in densely developed areas). Reading and thinking about this post, brings up the same reaction I so often have (and have probably expressed here before): Either I just don't "get" Salem, or Salem doesn't "get" what it is to be a city. Salem, as far as i can see, looks like, thinks like, and acts like a suburb - but one unattached to a central city.

So today I happened to be looking online at Land Lines, the quarterly magazine of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, based in Cambridge, MA, where I worked before I retired. The current July issue has an article "Putting People First: 10 Steps Toward Pedestrian-Friendly Suburbs" by Lynn Richards, incoming President & CEO of the Congress for New Urbanism. I say this reluctantly because I'm a city girl at heart, but Salem at it's heart is not a city, so maybe it would be useful to look at transformational suburban projects for ideas - and the article describes several.

Sorry, I can't figure out how to make links work here. You can read the article free online. You can also download and save a free pdf. Except for books, most Lincoln Institute publications - articles, working papers and policy focus reports are free online.

It was the streetcar that enabled suburban development, allowing separation of residential areas from workplaces. Nodes of residences and stores were built in walking distance of streetcar stops. Historian Sam Bass Warner described this process in Boston in his classic book "Streetcar Suburbs." (Some of those streetcar lines still run in Boston.

Curt said...

I disagree with Susann.

Lancaster, S. Commercial, River Rd., etc... do not have high density development that supports walking, biking, and transit use. They are primarily parking lots and strip malls. Density and car crashes are inversely related (see Richard Jackson, Urban Sprawl and Public Health). That is why these arterials have high crash rates. That is why Salem has much higher crash rates than Portland, and Portland has higher crash rates than San Francisco or NYC. Densely developed corridors generate higher rates of biking and walking and driving is very slow which makes the environment safer for al users.

I do agree that it is not appropriate everywhere and that some corridors (Kuebler, Cordon) should be designed to move high volumes of vehicles quickly.

Is it too much to ask that Salem have at least one densly developed urban area wher we can enjoy the benefits of city life? Just one?

Anonymous said...

The Oregonian has a piece on affordable housing in the Pearl District -

This would be particularly relevant for the area around Oxford street, which if suddenly redeveloped would entail some real gentrification shock.

'Only 30 percent of the nearly 2,000 units built under the deal are affordable, according to city documents obtained under the state's public records law. Three complexes now in the pipeline will bring Hoyt Street's affordable housing rate even lower, to 28 percent.

Hoyt Street would need to develop 258 affordable units to catch up to the city's target, an analysis by The Oregonian shows....

Despite city goals to sprinkle affordable housing amid heavily subsidized redevelopment efforts in the Pearl and South Waterfront districts, production targets have gone unfulfilled.

Portland's inability to deliver should give residents pause the next time a big redevelopment project is proposed, said former city Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury, who voted in support of the Hoyt Street deal.

"How can the public have confidence that those targets will be met?" Kafoury asked. "And the answer is, they can't – unless they elect people who really care about this stuff."'