Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pringle Square Rebrands as South Block Apartments; Thinking about the Car Dealerships

Do you remember the old website for Pringle Square Apartments?

Aerial Rendering in online advertising
(Here's an archived version of most of the site.)
After the "Residences at Riverfront Park" tanked because of the furor over access via State Street, the website was pulled.

I have been calling the apartments on the Boise warehouse shell the "Pringle Square Apartments," but perhaps they were never formally named this.

In any case, now that construction is in full swing and there is a real thing to market, they have a new brand: The South Block Apartments.

New website and branding
Welcome to the neighborhood.

(For more on the design of the South Block Apartments as well as the whole Boise redevelopment, see notes here. And while we are on the topic of defunct websites and history going down the memory hole, Alexandra Costic's Master's thesis, Reshaping the Industrial Riverfront, is in part a case study of the Boise project up to about 2009. Arbuckle Costic had been the project architect until they were replaced by CB|Two, and the thesis represents the project's development during that period. History gets written by the winners, but things like this are too important not to remember "roads not taken" and alternate visions, even when they don't work out. Sometimes things that don't work out are important visions to recover or revisit. And on particularly difficult projects, all the attempts are worth remembering.)

From the South to North Edges of Downtown

So now that the main outlines of the Boise project are completed, shifting to the north edge of downtown, could the "O'Brien" parcel be the next big redevelopment?

O'Brien Parcel Sale Flyer
The auto dealerships have moved north to the Parkway, and in addition to the parcel that is listed for sale, they had used parts of three other blocks. These four blocks around Liberty and Division are a huge dead zone now. The empty surface lots are especially desolate.

Just top left quadrant is listed for sale,
but there are 17 tax lots total in the four corners
(via SCI City Growth/City Design Project)
I don't know if the Salem market is actually "ripe" and able to absorb a new project - it's probably not - but there's a void there and at least theoretically it could be time to be thinking about one or more mixed use developments.

During the Sustainable Cities Initiative residency, three student groups studied these lots and came up with a number of suggestions. (The North Downtown Waterfront groups also worked on this area.) Interestingly, there seemed to be a consensus that side-by-side mixed uses might be better than vertically stacked mixed uses. The Boise project doesn't have that much ground floor commercial space - most of it is devoted to the parking garage - and this could be an emergent pattern in Salem redevelopment.

One of the SCI groups used one cluster of the buildings for a farmer's market. (Though it does stack some different uses.)

Before: low-rise, strip things

After, with a second layer of housing and blue skies
 SCI O'Brien Property Study
With the lots right by the Union Street Railroad Bridge and so close to downtown, redevelopment here could be a magnificently walkable thing!

But if these lots stay vacant for too long, blight will drift in. Temporary uses would be preferable to nothing and help stave off blight.

With the non-residential band of land-use created by the Civic Center, the Hospital, and Willamette on the south side of downtown, there's not much potential for more housing, but the north side has much more potential, and it will be important not to squander it. In order for downtown to thrive, it needs residents. The Capitol Mall, Civic Center, Hospital, and University are all wonderful, but they displaced the residents that nourished the cultural and economic life of downtown. Chasing after driving customers by leveling buildings for parking lots only exacerbated the problem. More than anything, downtown needs customers who can walk to it and in it.

Redeveloping these blocks will be key.

First Food Cart Pod

Home of Barrel and Keg at Market and Broadway NE
In light of all this, it is interesting that the first food cart pod is being announced not for an industrial area or for a drive-through strip development on a major arterial, but will be adjacent to an old storefront (a grocery store, circa 1925) in the Grant neighborhood on an old streetcar line which is today a minor arterial. This is just four blocks north of the car dealership lots.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Whatever becomes of the Obrien parcel, I would like to see buildings and parking lots pulled back from the creek and a linear park created along it. It would absorb some of the land, raise the value of the remaining lots and provide some flood storage during higher water.