|The Rams Head Pub and The Campbell Hotel building |
via McMenamins at NW Hoyt and 23rd
Try seeing this from the perspective of the people who already live here. We have been fighting to be heard through NESCA and other means for over two years. Some minor accomplishments have been made, but the City, during visits to NESCA meetings, has steadfastly denied plans for 450+ units of low income housing at North campus.Nobody wants Cookie-Cutter Apartment Blocks
Not many people believed them.
[E]veryone in official positions has denied the North Campus was under attack from the City on the housing front. Such a development would render our remaining neighborhood of decent single family homes a new "crime central" requiring it own substation!
I've always wanted single family homes of a design compatible with the surroundings. There would be room for a range of such housing, including duplexes & lower income. What I'm afraid of is the whole slum landlord thing.
Putting aside characterization a of tenants, just the numbers are horrific: at the low mark of 3 humans per unit, that's 1,350 new bodies in the neighborhood. The local schools gave NO capacity for even one more child. It also means 840 vehicles or more coming and going 24/7.
Park & D will need widening, so the will take all our front yards (alá 17th) and our homes will be worth nothing!
Widened streets, more traffic and no green space is still very disappointing. I tend to think of "space" as what we have now. I'm not considering the typical postage stamp lawns or cookie cutter deciduous trees that seem to be favored in similar developments. I would prefer set backs, meandering bike & walking paths, maybe a water feature or two. There should be a children's play area in the middle, not at the margins. It would be nice if most of the existing trees were built around, and saved. Surely the population deserves such grace notes.
It's scary to lose 30 years of effort.
The cost of the land as well as the need for lower-carbon and lower-car lifestyles means that it is highly unlikely the parcel(s) can or will be developed simply as more single-family housing on the same template and spacing as the surrounding neighborhood. It doesn't seem possible at all to fight that battle. It's nearly certain that's not even on the table. So we need to give that up.
While some have casually argued for retaining the existing buildings for low-income housing instead of demolishing them, no one in any official capacity has suggested that this is a viable plan. Asbestos remediation alone is considerable. Given the City's desire to optimize property taxes on the parcel - since as a State institution the whole thing has been off the property tax rolls - I think there is a hope that there will be as much up-market housing as the market can support. (It is also unfair to characterize low-income housing as "crime central.") But too much homogeneousness - all low-income or all up-market housing - will also create problems and sap the resulting district of vitality. No monoculture: Jumble and mixed ecosystems! The challenge will be to ensure an appropriate mix of affordable housing and up-market housing. Hopefully a modest amount of commercial/retail/office space can be mixed in as well.
And the main battle to fight, then, is against car-dependent, inexpensive, particle-board blocks of three story apartment buildings. The setbacks characteristic of this cookie-cutter model create an enclave isolated from sidewalk life and neighborhood life: Too much setback deadens rather than enlivens. Active edges are key.
|Typical parking lot with three-story apartment blocks|
But What about the Missing Middle?
I happen to think that D Street would make a lovely and walkable stretch with some two-story storefronts along it. This is a minority opinion, and most people seem to want residential housing facing D Street and any commercial development along Center Street only.
That being the case, the model of "The Missing Middle" provides a terrific typology of housing styles that would gradually slope from D Street to Center Street with increasing density and massing.
|A great illustration of modest density increase!|
(Image: Daniel Parolek, Opticos Design,
|Detail of the "middle"|
At top of the post is the Ram's Head Pub on the street level of the Campbell Apartments in Portland, which have been converted to condos. That's a brick building from 1912. Here is new construction in Beaverton, the Signal apartments. (Even Forest Grove is getting into the act.)
|The Signal in Beaverton - via Rembold development|
and the City of Beaverton
Even if you wouldn't want something like that on D Street, why not on Center Street? Put a neighborhood grocery store, something more robust than merely "convenience retail," on the ground floor?
Restoring Streetcar Scaled, Walkable Neighborhood Commerce
I don't know of course that either of those buildings would work, but it seems like they are the scale and type of construction we should want to embrace for at least part of the site along Center Street. Salem has no intact streetcar commercial districts outside of downtown, and the State Hospital parcel is an opportunity to recreate part of one. Far from harming adjacent property values, these districts and the jumble they contain would raise them.
If neighbors don't want lots of driving and parking, they should to be open to residential and commercial development that is walkable and enables lower-car lifestyles. These enhance, not detract, from neighborhoods!
|Our lost Hollywood District, North Capitol and Hunt|
via Salem Library Historic Photos
Fortunately, the North Broadway district from Belmont to Hood, with Broadway Commons, the YWCA/Family Building Blocks building, Salem Cinema, and with reuse of old grocery stores as the Northwest Hub, Barrel & Keg, and Christos - all this together is beginning to recover the old streetcar scale and vitality. It seems impossible to argue those projects are harming adjacent property values. The same can be true with the State Hospital parcel.
|Area zoning - State Hospital in light blue|
Even outside of downtown, these are assets to be leveraged, not problems to avoid.
|People want to be on streets with other people,|
and they avoid streets that are empty - D. Shoup
We can sprawl out on the edges of the city, or we can seize precious parcels like this and create a more vibrant city closer to the city center. There are generous servings of win here to be seized!
A Tool for Housing
Finally, here's a tool and model for calculating development costs and affordable housing. I haven't played with it, but neighborhood advocates for the State Hospital project might find it a useful tool in walking through the actual economics of the site and prospects for some proportion of affordable housing.
.@GMacMcCarthy brings numbers to housing debate @Atlantic_LIVE #CityLab2015 via @CityLab http://t.co/lAPTwBiZT0 pic.twitter.com/ED1oAGbMgx— Lincoln Institute (@landpolicy) October 19, 2015