This image looks to be taken from the apartment tower at Union and Winter looking east-ish, with a little bias to the southeast. You can see the Barbara Roberts Human Services building and the Fortress of Revenue.Blue moon over Salem pic.twitter.com/oUROT5RRCm— David Davis (@DavidDavisSJ) August 1, 2015
There's also the large parking lot. (Where right now is the Saturday Market!)
The image was taken shortly after moonrise, so let's call it about 9pm.
That's 9pm on a Friday, mid-summer night with a glorious full moon, when the temperatures finally have started to fall, and people might venture out to enjoy the evening.
But nope. Complete, utter desolate nothingness. Not a person to be seen. The parking lot's empty, the government buildings have no activity - except perhaps janitorial services. Maybe there's some activity on the sidewalks off the edges of the image, but that doesn't seem likely.
These are blocks in the heart of Salem, immediately adjacent to downtown proper, and they are a total void.
We should see or be able to see some people strolling, lovers canoodling, kids frolicking in the twilight!
Our mania for parking and parking lots and our commitment to single-use buildings carefully separated from residential districts together ensure the deadness.
|Look at all the highway and empty parking lots here|
Marion Park is tucked into dead space partially created by a highway bridge on the south, a state highway and railroad on the west, a wide and busy arterial on the east, and an undernourished Union Street, with a low-rise office building to the north. Several parking lots also empty out the adjacent space.
While eyes and ears are not a guarantee of safety, they help promote safety, and because of busy auto traffic on three sides and low-intensity land-uses sprinkled all along the perimeter, other than visitors to Marion Park itself, there are very few eyes and ears on the park block, and it sometimes seems dicey, especially for a place meant to be a kid-attractor with the skateboard and bmx bowls. It too is a void.What we know so far: Marion Square Park stabbing http://t.co/Dj5fEQ7ioz #SJNow pic.twitter.com/u7zkw8QOCW— Gordon Friedman (@gordonrfriedman) August 1, 2015
If deep in your heart these two scenes are the city life you crave, well, then there's no conversation here.
But if you think there could be more to Salem, these illustrate why we need to rethink parking, why we need to rethink our zoning, why we need to create streets better for walking and biking, and why ornamental emptinesses like Peace Plaza and Mirror Pond and Marion Park should to be reconsidered and better knit into the urban fabric.