Monday, April 6, 2015

Lord and Schryver Museum also Shows Mission St in Transition

Mission Street near downtown is in transition.

While the Hospital's actions at the Blind School and then across the street on the corner house have been in the news, more quietly the work on the museum proposed for Gaiety Hollow, the home and garden of Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver, is also evidence for the change.

Garden Conservancy News, summer 2014 clip
Later this month on the 22nd there will be a hearing on some of the zoning and parking matters for the museum.

Hearing on April 22nd
By formulas in code, this small museum requires five off-street parking stalls for cars. While two of them can be supplied by the driveway, the other three will be supplied by the Derby/Bush House parking lot across the street. The museum will have to execute a formal lease with the City for these three stalls, it looks like.

Ordinarily folks would just park on the street, but we have proprietary notions about on-street parking adjacent to our homes, and our off-street parking requirements are meant to address this. Because of proximity to downtown and the civic center, there is already a parking district here with 90 minute time-limits unless you show a permit indicating you live in the neighborhood. Longer-term users of the museum, therefore, will not be able to park on the street and will want to use the Bush lot.

Oh no! Parking a block away
The proposed bike parking also presents some wrinkles. Purely from a biking standpoint, the most logical access might be off the alley from High or Church Street. More will be biking on side streets than be biking on Mission Street itself. But the requirement is for the parking to be 50 feet from the primary entry, which will be the front door on Mission Street. (It's not like that's a dumb requirement!)

Bike parking could be hidden behind shrubbery
So it is proposed to be on the side of the driveway, perhaps screened by shrubbery, and maybe in the door zone of the driveway. It's too hard to say from concept drawings if there's actually enough room and if it will be adequately visible.

The shrubbery to right of driveway
It looks like there will also be bike racks in front on the curb strip between the sidewalk and curb.

I wonder if in back off the alley by the sheds might be another place to consider bike parking.

Really there's limited flexibility here. Unlike virtually all other situations, the landscaping here as originally envisioned by Lord & Schryver is is part of the museum and on the National Register. You can't pave part of the yard for a parking lot, you can't move the house to a larger site, you can't put bike racks just anywhere. You have to leave nearly everything as-is.

In a fundamental and essential way, to change it is to break it.

This situation, both for cars and for bikes, doesn't really set up contradictions with our parking requirements or anything, but it is a small piece of evidence that we don't handle parking optimally. This situation here requires flexibility and creativity, not inflexible formulas and regulations.

Changing Mission Street

In the bigger picture, this is a kind "encroachment" neighbors have feared.

You might remember the Salem Weekly story about the Hospital's purchase of the house on the corner of Church and Mission, just three houses down from Gaiety Hollow. They plan to use it for "physicians and others moving to the community to live while they are looking for a residence in Salem."

One block down the street is a child care and across from it on the corner with Liberty is an empty lot where several old homes were demolished after they had been neglected so long they were ruined.

And of course there's the vast emptiness now at the Blind School.

As a related matter, there's the area south of Mission on the Commercial/Liberty couplet. A few years back students from the Sustainable Cities Initiative residency devoted a full report to redevelopment concepts there.

As for transportation, there's also the need for bike lanes on Mission Street, and some amount of widening seems inevitable. It would be lovely if better conditions for people on foot and on bike could be accommodated without additional auto travel lanes - more human capacity, less exclusively auto capacity, you know? In any case, Mission Street will likely not remain as-is.

The properties along Mission Street here are in flux, and it's hard not to see fewer single-family residences and more commercial uses. Even if you see, as most neighbors probably do, the Lord & Schryver museum as a "benign" form of change, it's still a non-residential use and an expression of "encroachment." While we should want to preserve the stock of older homes from wanton demolition, and insist that more surface parking is a pox and curse, at the same time it is inevitable that this area will change. The interesting and relevant question is not how to stop change, but instead is how to manage it for even greater flourishing. One part of this is creating more walking destinations and fewer drive-to destinations. As Gaiety Hollow matures as a museum and garden project, it could become a magnet for more walking.

As a detail in the total district, the museum is small and maybe even inconsequential. But as a contrast to the demolition and parking lot expansion over at the Blind School, it precisely enacts a redevelopment metaphor of small-scale "urban gardening."

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

For more on bike parking at Gaiety Hollow, including doubt about the alley plan, see here and here.