Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What's Realistic for the Second Street and Undercrossing Project?

Yup, that's 1968!
A friend of the blog recently shared some vintage labels from Oregon Fruit products. A couple of years ago, shortly after the sale of the cannery to a group associated with beer distributors, it was not at all surprising to see a product line extension aimed at brewers.

Not sure if this was actually a beer for sale,
but it doesn't matter
The kinship is unmistakable!

It's neat, actually, to see the continuity in branding on a product that is central to our identity as a city in the Willamette Valley and as an agricultural producer.

The labels and future of the cannery were top of mind when I saw the City had posted an update on the student project for the Second Street undercrossing, part of the West Salem Business District Action Plan:

So it's interesting to see that at least in longer-range visioning, the Oregon Fruit complex is transformed to an "adaptive reuse warehouse" (in grey) and there is a small park with a food cart pod (the adjacent green).

Final proposal in plan view (updated with Goodwill)
UO SCI project, Salem Undercrossing Study
The density of redevelopment envisioned here just doesn't seem very likely, and so most of the building outlines seem more like utopian urban fantasy than realistic prospect for investment and change at this actual location.

The idea of a below-grade plaza just doesn't seem likely
or actually this vibrant; it seems more like a dead space.
(in pink, upper right of plan view above)
The parking lot and lesser scale of the Goodwill project seems like a more realistic baseline.

And is Oregon Fruit really going anywhere?

If I have misgivings about the whole undercrossing concept, it's that the other stuff around it seems like too much wishful thinking, and so it is difficult to know how seriously to take the undercrossing proposal.

It would be terrible for the undercrossing and opening of Second Street to depend on the departure of a business or to get bogged down in overoptimistic visions for the future.

If we do the undercrossing, it will help galvanize redevelopment here, but it will probably take a different form and will arise piecemeal and more organically.

In any case, the City has announced meetings for July:
  • July 1 - Special WSRAB Meeting to discuss Action Plan, West Salem Library 7:30 AM
  • July 2 Salem Chamber Governmental Affairs presentation, Salem Chamber 7:00AM
  • July 13 - City Council Chambers - Work Session, 5:30PM
  • August 10 or 24 - Urban Renewal Agency's consideration of the Action Plan report/recommendations (this will be a staff report on the Agency Board agenda)
Crossing Wallace Road to reach businesses, the park, or the bridge, remains intimidating and difficult, and the connection an underpass represents is a critical one. This is an important project. Both the Minto Bridge and Union Street Railroad Bridge are limited by the lack of connections across State Highways and other busy roads. Hopefully this project can maintain momentum and find a way to completion.

The back label is even better!


Susann Kaltwasser said...

Did the UofO Sustainable Cities project yield anything of use? I have yet to see anything. They proposed that awful Mirror Pond police station and disruption of the Peace Plaza with a service building. Now this!?

They also did a lot of recommendations about how the City and Neighborhood Associations could communicate better. Some ideas might work if you were dealing with young people (like use Facebook more) but most of their ideas were unrealistic.

I think it was a good exercise for the students, but not for Salem. They are so naive and unrealistic in their ideas. That the City officials would even accept such foolishness instead of listening to local citizens is kind of disheartening.

I would love to see a better way for people to access old West Salem business district because it has some really neat stuff there and a lot of potential, but the parking and access is pretty difficult.

Anonymous said...

Susann-- Don't you think its disingenuous to criticize SCI for not delivering anything of use when you actively oppose their proposals? How would you know if they are capable of delivering when you won't even give them a chance?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Both Mirror Pond and Peace Plaza are ornamental emptinesses, failed public spaces! - and one's a sludgey, algae-gunked mess to boot. Disagree re: "awful mirror pond police station and disruption of peace plaza." You and may others may think that the proposal was too expensive, but it was not a terrible one as far as the quality goes. It was also developed with ZGF and CB|Two - and it is not fair to continue to characterize it as shoddy student work. That's a straw man. Anyway, this is an old debate and is not very interesting any more - the new Police Station will not, it seems, be at the Civic Center, and it's time to move on from that "Civic Center/Peace Plaza/Mirror Pond" part of the argument.)

In the meantime, the interesting observation with regard to the SCI project isn't "why isn't the student work higher quality?" but rather, "why isn't the City moving faster on project ideas?"

One trend to your comment with which I agree is that the City isn't doing a very good job of communicating in a serious way any kind of audit. I mean, there's "rah rah" kinds of cheering for the SCI project, and from time to time projects get referenced in Staff Reports, but now that we are in round terms five years out from it, what are the real, enduring, and funded projects that arose from it. And where entire projects didn't move forward, what specific ideas have been carried forward as components in other projects? What real difference did it make?

At some point the City should offer a detailed assessment of the SCI residency. I suspect that we will conclude it was still worthwhile and generated some useful ideas. Even if some of the ideas were outlandish, utopian, or too much spit-balling.

At the same time, some of the ideas are not advancing because Salem remains backwards and small-townish in key ways. Salem resists ideas from outside itself and is too often provincial in this way. The opinions of local citizens are important, but local citizens don't always know best. Nothing about the SCI projects is binding, and to frame the residency as if the City were listening only to students and not to citizens is also a straw man.

And still more ideas may return in five, 10, even 20 years. It is a mistake to evaluate it only on a short-term horizon.

Maybe an SCI retrospective will become another post. It's hard to say. From here an attempt at a general assessment doesn't seem very interesting. It is more interesting to trace ideas as they fade or reappear in individual projects.

Current City transportation planning projects are at least somewhat informed by SCI transportation, bike, and parks projects, for example. Even if only as background noise, it's still a useful moment in civic conversation.

In the end the SCI Residency and associated projects are about brain-storming, conversation, dialogue, and debate. As such, the SCI projects should be celebrated, not condemned

(For reference, here's a link to the City's page that has the final reports on all the SCI projects.)

Jeff Schumacher said...

I find it very interesting to see someone openly dismiss SCI's efforts as naive, unrealistic, and foolishness. It's also interesting to suggest that listening to local citizens will yield better results. I've only lived in Salem for about the last ten years, and being somewhat younger myself (at least compared to the others I see involved in these issues) I am skeptical of the older generations here that have overseen (or at least been present during) the development of the South Commercial strip mall corridor, the West Salem suburbs, and the Lancaster strip mall corridor. And that same generation then laments that we don't have a more vibrant downtown!

Last night the South Central Association of Neighbors heard a landscape architect go over the pending master plan for Minto Brown park. It was tremendously interesting, and it was great to have an actual expert speak to the various issues facing the park. Obviously the City will need to come up with money to put pieces of that master plan into action, but at least there will be a comprehensive, well-thought out roadmap to follow.

If SCI's efforts can help in the formation of a well-thought out plan for the improvement of certain areas within the City, I'm all for it. A younger voice with new ideas may be just what Salem needs. They may be students, but so what? They are certainly capable of coming up with ideas that can make Salem a place where people want to live. And given that our City Council and mayor support a $400M third bridge, I'll reserve my foolishness label for them.

Anonymous said...

There appeared to be another major crash at Union and Commercial this afternoon.