Saturday, July 25, 2015

City Council, July 27th - State Street and State Hospital

On the Council agenda for Monday there's a lot on redevelopment studies. Much of it are updates for Council on matters already discussed at advisory board meetings or in other City public meetings, but the information on the State Street Refinement Plan is totally new here.

The old ice cream factory on State Street for sale
I have to say, I'm pretty excited by the State Street study and also the way the City has started with it here. For the first time, I think, the whole study contract is being posted as part of the Council agenda. I don't remember other recent TGM grants and other studies having the whole agreement made public. This is a new bit of transparency and is a great thing to see. (Is this an initiative of Kasey Duncan, our interim City Manager?) Or maybe it's a return to older forms of transparency. Anyway, you can read the agreement, see what the overall plan and deliverables are, and come to your own conclusions about it if you like.

State Street study area
Here's are the high-level project description and goals:
The State Street Refinement Plan Project is intended to revitalize a section of State Street in the City of Salem ("City") into a vibrant, attractive, walkable mixed-use corridor through planning for coordinated land use and transportation improvements. Zone changes, land use regulations and design standards will be developed to encourage pedestrian-friendly and mixed-use development or redevelopment. The zone changes and land use improvements can influence the creation of alternative street design cross sections within the constrained right-of-way on State Street that can accommodate facilities and amenities to make people walking and biking feel welcome and comfortable.
At this point I don't know that it's necessarily very interesting to drill into detail, but there will be opportunities to circle back to it as the study gets going.

The important part is to remember that every study is essentially a blank slate: We can make as much or as little of it as we like, and we can then fund it as much or as little as we like.
Here's a list of all the TGM grant-funded studies in Salem, and its length may astonish you, especially when you consider how much funded change actually resulted from them.

Initial recon and then the public project kickoff are scheduled now for August - November of this year, with final recommendations and Council adoption for mid-winter 2017.

Yaquina Hall, 1946 - looks to be saved
An update on the State Hospital North Campus confirms in detail what we pretty much already knew in general.
On July 6, 2015, the Oregon Legislature passed SB 5006 [actually HB 5006, I think] providing $8.3 million to DAS for "demolition and site improvements" on the North Campus. The funding for this and several other capital construction projects is available immediately and must be expended by 2021. It is expected that DAS will utilize the funding to complete environmental remediation and demolition of all structures, except the Dome and Yaquina buildings, and environmental remediation and "mothballing" decommissioning of the Yaquina building to reduce ongoing utility and maintenance costs once the building is vacated and until the property is sold.
Proposed park in white, preservation in green, demolition in red
So in the northwest quadrant we have a proposed park, in the southwest quadrant we have Yaquina and the Dome buildings for preservation and reuse, and in the eastern half we have demolition and site prep.

But why is Yaquina rather than Breitenbush getting the love? Is it just because it falls between the proposed park and the Dome building, and therefore makes a neat half-and-half development plan on either side of 25th Street?

Is this the absolute best we can do? Almost assuredly not. But at the same time it seems like a compromise, imperfect it's true, that's within the range of what reasonable people can disagree on.

Half of Belluschi's Breitenbush Hall - A shallow strip, super wide
and a good distance from the sidewalk across a lawn
I will mourn the loss of another Belluschi building, and I think that we are cavalier about them as they go one by one. But in the context of this particular site and this particular building, there are some real challenges, and where Howard Hall was small and it seemed like there were any number of different ways to reuse that building, Breitenbush is large, very strictly configured, and seems much more difficult to imagine in adaptive reuse. It is not possible to be certain or dogmatic on this, I think.

Other Stuff

Council will get an update on the West Salem Action Plan and hold a work session, but there didn't seem to be anything new in it. (See notes on the Edgewater District for more discussion.)

There's an update on the Portland Road study. It also is a summary rather than something new. (See notes here.)

The Public Hearing on new ordinances for Uber and other "transportation network companies" will be held. It appears Uber has already abandoned the Salem market, at least temporarily. The proposed rules include:
  • Yearly vehicle safety inspections
  • Increased commercial automotive and general liability coverage
  • Requires City background checks on drivers
See notes on the last meeting for more on why these might matter. It will be interesting to see how strongly the companies contest these, or if Salem at present is not a big enough market on which to spend resources.


Anonymous said...

LoveSalem has an interesting proposal for the transportation network companies -

"The right local government to regulate the Ubers and Lyfts are the transit districts, not the cities."

Susann Kaltwasser said...

The State Street study should be of interest to everyone because the staff is going to be using it as a template to look at redevelopment issues for other overlay zones around Salem. It will take a long time to complete, so it will be a challenge to follow effectively, however.

Also, sad to see North Campus being demolished. Since it does not have to happen immediately, some of us still hope that someone will come forward with some funding to buy the land before it is too late. Note that the term 'shovel ready' means denuding the area of all trees as well as buildings. Lots of wonderful old trees there that will be greatly missed. You have to admit that one of the real gems of Salem is a walk, ride or even a drive down D Street from 24th to Park. Imagine all that gone in favor of some high density housing development!

Preserving the buildings would not only make sense in an economic way, it sure will not be good that all that asbestos will now go into a landfill by the River.

One excellent idea was that the Belluschi building would make a great school. In fact WOU was interested in it a one point. maybe they might still be interested if it were not set up that you have to take all the land in one purchase. As long as they have divided the land into 3 parcels, why not a few more?

I am wonderin at what point the City will do some planning with the community on this spot. Surely they do not think it wise to leave that to the State or to an out of area developer.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I have walked a great deal in this neighborhood, and actually, it would be a great delight if there could be a row of townhouses and small storefronts along D or Park or Center streets!

In my walks, alone and with friends, we have agreed that this little district was too-quiet, even desolate, and that it needed more activity. The empty grounds sucks life out of the area.

(It's important to remember also the Walnuts are dying, and that it is nearly certain they would all be cut down in the near future. So it's not like "keeping things the same" is in any way a realistic possibility. As for pure park-like walking experiences, the western portion of the "south campus" with the curved avenues will remain.)

The scale of your "gem" is interesting and worth a comment: A walk or drive from 24th to Park along D Street is tiny. The more interesting question is how this section is in relation to a walk from downtown to Lancaster.

I want to suggest that focusing down on such a tiny segment is at least a partial artifact of auto-logic: What happens when a person drives to a place, gets out for a brief stroll, and then gets back in the car.

This is the same logic that considers the "sculpture garden" at the Conference Center a lovely place or considers the Civic Center campus a fine place.

It has seemed like it was a central part of the logic behind ornamental emptinesses. These ornamented spaces look good on paper, or to those who have driven to them, but their designers and planners have not given sufficient thought to how they function in the dimension of time, how they relate to people passing through them, and how they relate to other spaces both adjacent and more distant. They are interesting theoretically as isolated, atomic units; but considered as part of larger networks and urban fabric, they fail to be interesting in a way that attracts and generates consistent levels of activity and attention.

So from here, anyway, it is not possible to share the desire for an ornamental emptiness or more low-density single family housing on that block.

However! It would terrible if something of higher density were more of the three-story apartment complex with parking lots cookie-cutter template we too often here - like with not very good the Simpson Hills proposal at Fairview - along with some strip mall commercial frontage.

That "missing middle" graphic and concept really seems useful as a model for here.

Still, as you say it is curious there's not a greater emphasis on a "master plan" process or other guide to redevelopment that is the result of close collaboration with the neighborhood.

@Anon, Thanks for the LoveSalem link. That is an interesting idea. I wonder what are the actual prospects for a transit district to enact relevant regulations - could they in fact actually do this?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Interesting that the Mayor didn't appoint Councilors from Wards 1 and 2, the border between which runs along this length of State Street, and instead appointed herself and Councilor Bennett (Ward 1) to the advisory committee.

At least on the surface that reads as little bit of discourtesy to Ward 2.

Also the Transportation Network Companies hearing has been kept open to August 24th. Here's the letter from Portland law firm Davis Wright Tremain on behalf of Rasier LLC, which is apparently a subsidiary of Uber.

They say: too much burdensome red tape, too much hassle, not consistent with other cities.

Here's a story from Chicago about problems with the insurance coverage.

"One might think that it would be easy to make a claim under Uber’s insurance policy, but that is not so. Take a look at Uber’s website and see if you can find where it lists their insurance underwriter." (etc.)

Susann Kaltwasser said...

The problem with the North Campus from my point of view is that the people that live nearby are being disregarded. Even at the neghborhood associaiton level (NESCA) their opinions have been maninpulated and over ridden by others. A master plan is a way to find out what the people who have invested in the property adjacent would like. If the redevelopment could be planned first and then look for a buyer, we might have a good balance between usable space and keeping those aspects that people love.

The open blank area closest to 25th is going to be redeveloped into a soccer field with a lot of cars bringing people from all over the city to that area. It is not going to be local people anymore. The more park-like area to the east along D Street is in danger of being cleared for multifamily housing. More parking will be required under city codes. IF a commercial area is allowed at the Center Street portion then the traffic will get even more congested. Now the cars stack all the way from 14th to Hawthorne from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

People who pass through either in cars, bikes or walking have no clue about what impact such developments can bring. The local people need to be respected.

Unfortunately, with the way things have been going many people I talk to are just planning to move away. This will create its own from of blight, if that happens.