Saturday, August 1, 2015

Blue Moon and Dead Salem

Here's a couple of examples of how our land-use patterns just absolutely kill city life in Salem.
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.

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
For another angle on this, consider Marion Park.

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.

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.


d. davis said...

Funny you point this out. I was reminiscing about a high school memory of running around the Capitol Mall playing flashlight tag. There didn't seem to be anyone in the park that night. (You were correct about the location, the Lee)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

But there will be folks in the parking lot on Saturday night! A group is going to show Monty Python and the Holy Grail from 6pm to 10:30pm on Saturday the 22nd in the lot where earlier in the day will have been the Saturday Market. More details here.