Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chemeketa Bikeway's Future? Also, new Firehouse Crossing Shopping Center and its Sidewalk

The crash a couple of days ago between a car and moped at Chemeketa and High brought to mind the proposed development for the old City Hall site.

Revived concept for Old City Hall site: High & Chemeketa,
which would have included the Belluschi Bank lot (far right)
This is an old rendering, and it may have been - or may will be - superseded. Still, it's a pretty big midrise project by Salem standards.

It also went through approvals and traffic analysis before Bike and Walk Salem was adopted into the Transportation System Plan. So it does not necessarily accommodate the fact that Chemeketa is a designated bikeway. Similarly, it precedes the the Downtown Mobility Study and was conceptualized before there were plans to reconfigure High Street.

So what happens to the streets when this thing gets built?

(See here for the extension on the demolition permit and the site plan approval.)

CB|Two Continues to Experiment with More Walkable Designs

Remember the auto dealership that was demolished earlier this year just north of Winco and across the street from Trader Joe's?

Now Demolished Dealership at 4403 Commercial Street SE
(look at all the blacktop and parking!)
CB|Two is designing a new shopping center for the site at 4403 Commercial Street SE.

Concept Site Plan for new Shopping Center
via Coldwell Banker
Just like the development with Panera that recently opened, the buildings will not be set back behind a parking lot, but instead will line Commercial Street, not quite flush with the sidewalk.

One driveway on Commercial Street looks like it will be deleted, and the primary car access will be off of Sunnyview Sunnyside and an existing driveway at Key Bank for a drive-thru unit.

Building elevation from northeast corner looking southwest
via CB|Two (click to enlarge)
It looks like there will still be a planted buffer between the building faces and the sidewalk.
I think this is from Sunnyside looking east-ish
via CB|Two (click to enlarge)
Also like the Panera development, the main entries to the stores or restaurants will still look to the parking lot rather than to Commercial Street. But walks will connect the street-side sidewalks to the parking lot and interior walkways.

Though the renderings aren't very finely detailed, I do like the blocks and angles and nested volumes that break up the monotony of the shoebox form of the strip mall.

So the development looks to be an interesting hybrid, still very auto-oriented, but better than the standard-issue strip mall set back behind a parking lot.

But the big question is whether it will be walkable enough that it will serve as a neighborhood center in addition to being a driving destination.

B2 Taphouse from Sidewalk:  Not oriented to Commercial Street
Taphouses concentrate the question. They have definitely become a "thing" here in Salem, but they aren't really walkable in the prevailing form. They fall short of the amenities a pub would offer, but they're more than a quick-fill to-go station. They are a suburban, car-oriented semi-gathering spot, usually located in a mall. Another hybrid.

Not far away at all from Firehouse Crossing is the b2 Taphouse. Its main entry is firmly in back, facing the parking lot and totally unrelated to the sidewalk.

It remains to be seen whether here in Salem there is an architectural configuration and the right neighborhood market that will support a fully walkable neighborhood pub or other commercial center on these very large arterials like Commercial Street, where our current zoning mandates businesses locate. (See Matt Yglesias and Kaid Benfield on why bars and restaurants are good for neighborhoods.)

In the meantime, Firehouse Crossing will be a positive transitional element, but we will wait for a real game-changer on Commercial Street.

Postscript - "apropos of nothing"

This doesn't merit a post of its own, so we'll just jam it in here...

Via Skyscraperpage and Portland Business Journal comes this design by ZGF for the "innovation center" at Kettle Foods just announced the other day.

Kettle Innovation Center, ZGF architects
It's on an industrial campus, unrelated to any meaningful urban street system or neighborhood - but it looks like a handsome building!

Even if you say it's junk food, it's still agricultural industry, exactly the right sector for us here. (It would be a difficult and very cranky argument to say this is the wrong kind of economic development for us here, wouldn't it? Isn't this a lot better and less toxic than a lot of heavy industry or technology manufacturing?)

But how do we knit this into the city? Is it even possible?


Curt said...

Its an improvement but I think the buildings are far too low to offset the width of the street. It still looks wildly out of proportion.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Good point! The vertical dimension of site is also important. (See here in the comments for a discussion where Curt says more about enclosure ratio.)

Also added a random bit on the Kettle Foods "innovation center."

Susann Kaltwasser said...

First thing I noticed is it is Sunnyside not Sunnyview (common mistake). Will need to look at the details further for more comments.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Have you seen anything about the McDonald's that are being dedeveloped throughout Salem? The one on D and Lancaster may be one of the first, but I think others are being thought about in the future.

They plan on taking out the play areas of ALL McDonald's adding more parking and increasing the drive-thru capacity.

The neighbors at ELNA tore through the plans like vultures telling the designer ( and owner in the back of the room) that it was a mess of a design and how it was not pedestrian friendly. Also, they commented that without the play areas there would be little reason for them to go to the facility.

I am not sure it made any impact, but it is clear that they are thinking about car traffic and not people in the neighborhood.

A rumor is that McDonald's may even be thinking about adding gas stations to their stores. I can find nothing in my searches on line that this might be a trend. But someone said it is happening in California. Does anyone know?

I have a drawing of the proposal, but do not know how to post it here.

Jim Scheppke said...

In the Salem of my dreams a lot of this new S. Commercial development would be happening downtown instead. At the rate things are going, the more well-heeled folks in S. Salem may never need to go downtown for anything. This will make it tougher for our downtown to thrive.

Curt said...

Do you really know what is planned for the Belluschi site or is it just speculation right now?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Re: McDonalds - Since they have seemed irredeemable from the start, it hasn't seemed necessary to look at the difference between bad and badder. The scale of difference has seemed too fine and too autoist for our walk/bike perspective here. I saw the remodel on South Commercial at Browning, and mostly it's worse, with the main entry on the back side rather than on Commercial, but the new light did make a kind of jug-handle turn for people on bikes a little easier. I just don't know if it's worth spending much energy on criticizing McDonalds, you know?

(The whole Burgerville experiment has seemed much more interesting in this category. In a totally different category, the "Kitchen" that replaced the old Casey's Hot Dog might deserve a post. It's a totally urban storefront restaurant, and very exciting to see!)

Re: Sunnyview/Sunnyside - thanks for the correction. I switch them all the time! The caption was right, you might have noticed, so it wasn't even internally consistent!

Re: Belluschi site - It's somewhere between "know" and "speculation." There are approved plans. The plans got an extension. So it's more than speculation.

The plans are old. I wouldn't be surprised to see the plans change. I don't have access to all of the plan documents. So this isn't "knowledge" either.

It's "best available information" that yet is incomplete. I would rate it at 60-70% confidence level. As I get better information, I will update/revise as appropriate. I'd like to see a downtown development on the old City Hall site, so I hope there's an opportunity to do a series of posts on the development - and a chance to iterate with better info!

Susann Kaltwasser said...

While I agree in part about your comments on McDonald's, I think it is worth calling them out publically about how bad they are and how much they are not neighborhood friendly.

My opinion is that we shall see them take a big hit in the profit area...even they are not very competitive. People are getting smarter about how they spend the money...even their junk food money.

If they were the only place in town that served this junk, they might be able to make a profit, but when you have much better competition right across the street, like on Lancaster, you would think that they would think twice about how they do things.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

One final comment on the S Commercial development. I think that this location is likely to get a lot of foot traffic from the apartments in the area. I would hope that the businesses are suitable for this clientel.