Monday, February 8, 2016

Third Try May not be the Charm for Proposed May's Landing Apartments

On Wednesday what is, I think, the third main iteration of a proposed May's Landing development south of Mission Street on 23rd is at the Hearings Officer.

Current proposed site plan - Staff Report
The project looks like a cookie-cutter development for 96 apartment units in six building blocks.

SENSA barely endorsed it by a deeply mixed 5-4 vote, and the Staff Report recommends denial, saying it hasn't sufficient addressed concerns formalized in Council's last decision on the second iteration.

Staff Summary
In 2012 Council identified issues with
  • Compatibility with surrounding uses
  • Walking safety and comfort
  • A lack of schools and parks here
  • Neighborhood traffic concerns on Oxford
  • Industrial-grade noise from the Airport and City Shops
No matter how you slice it, the current proposal it looks suboptimal and problematic.

Old site plan from the first iteration - not much different
It seems like there are two main issues. First, the conclusion of the previous process culminating in the Council decision seemed to ask for a substantial change in the total concept for the project, and this new iteration is instead just tinkering with the details. It doesn't represent enough of a rethinking of the project. (It looks like the primary change is flip-flopping a section of parking lot and one building block, along with deleting a driveway access from Oxford.)

But also - if the site really needs a new vision, what should that be? In absolute terms it's not very good, either.

It's a Stroad. Bike salmon are a symptom of its dangerous design
This is a difficult site, adjacent to an industrial area, to the airport, and to a terrible stroad of a State Highway. Just up the street a block a truck driver struck and killed Rebecca Schoff in December. It is inhospitable to people on foot and on bike.

The lots here are zoned "industrial commercial"
So what kind of development does actually make sense here? What do you say "Yes" to here? It's zoned for "industrial commercial," and maybe no new residential makes more sense here in relation to existing adjacent uses. Still, a range of residential uses are at least formally allowed in IC-zoned land.

And more crucially, how do we get projects today that transition for the future on Mission Street, and shift from the prevailing car-dependent, strip-mall, stroad model to something more walkable, urbane, and human? A set of car-oriented, cookie-cutter apartment blocks
just digs in on the prevailing messed-uped-ness of it all.

This is a tough one and I see no obvious answers. Do you?

(See previous notes on the project here.)


Mike said...

If Salem wants to build apartments, they could probably fit 500-1000 units along Commercial and Liberty between Mission and where they merge. This is a vastly underutilized area, with good transit connections, that could become a great neighborhood connecting Bush Pasture Park and the river and downtown with South Salem. But Commercial and Liberty will have to become two lanes with on-street parking and buffered bike lanes. These apartments could be the missing middle you've written about.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

i grew up in this area on Rural street. those houses were only livable there because the 9 blocks of houses were surrounded by open fields where children could play and have a semi-rural life. However, now that the area is developed mostly as commercial and industrial, it is not a place for people and for children. There are no parks or open spaces. The noise of the airport is minor compared to the noise of the commercial setting.

On top of the lack of real livable space, this is in the flood plain. When I lived there as a child in the 1050s and 60s our street flooded 3 times. The open ditches called Shelton Ditch was put into a culvert only after the Salem City Public Works Shop area was flooded as well. Since then the water now is diverted to Mill Creek and probably contributes to its flooding in heavy rains.

This area should not be allowed to have any residential development let alone apartments. Eventually the housing that remains in the area should be allowed to be replaced with more commercial and industrial uses.

It will be sad to see the house and neighborhood that I grew up in be destroyed, but in the long run it is best. The once idyllic setting of my youth some 60 years ago is long gone but never will be forgotten.

I hope this project is finally defeated.