Thursday, August 25, 2016

Craftsman-Bungalow Podiatrist Office Proposed for Corner of Liberty and Mission

Things look to be heating up for fall, and there's a bunch of Hearings announced for the Historic Landmarks Commission next month.

Three of the things seem more-or-less routine, but one of them is not.

View from Liberty

View from Mission: Long and Low
At the corner of Liberty and Mission, in an effort to create something compatible with the Historic District, there's a huge Craftsman-Bungalow styled podiatrist office proposed.

Typical proportions are closer to square
The Houses of Grant Neighborhood
It's hard to tell from the elevation sketches, but here's a hot take: Once built, it will be out of proportion, so much so that it may even be a grotesque enlargement of a typical Craftsman-Bungalow form - It looks way too long, and not tall enough for the length, flattened like a pancake.

My gut is that we would actually be better served in this particular place by a building form that is not trying to mimic - and even camouflage itself in - an historic style in order to be "compatible" with the Historic District.

Our Historic Preservation Code, however, tends to the opposite conclusion. SRC 230.035(b)(1)(C) requires that
The design reflects, but does not replicate, the architectural style of historic contributing buildings in the district.
So there's that. But it seems to lead here to an aesthetic misfire.

You might have a different opinion, and it would be interesting to hear from folks who think the vintage 1920s look is actually the best approach.

The site itself has been contested. In 2007 Salem Weekly wrote about the "demolition by neglect" that was underway, and in 2010 the SHINE historical digest covered the demolition itself.

But here we are with an empty lot on a changing Mission Street. There is no reason not to allow a podiatrist office here.

But is trying to ape a Craftsman Bungalow actually the best design solution?

What do you think?

Other items on the agenda, which at least from here do not seem controversial:
Once the Staff Reports come out there might be more to say, especially on the podiatrists office.

The Public Hearing will be Thursday, September 15th.

A Postscript

Statesman, September 27th, 1925
This is nice! A reader sent in a note about another bungalow court (see discussion in comments below). This one is a little hidden, on the south side of Miller Street right at the path connection with River Road. Back then it was "at the corner of John and Miller Streets," but John doesn't go through now (or perhaps never did).

Update, September 14th

The Commission meets tomorrow and you know what? This is faint praise, but it's true, it doesn't suck!

Looking NE from Liberty

Looking SE through intersection of Liberty and Mission
Given all the constraints and competing interests here, on the whole it seems alright.

If these elevations are accurate, it's not as out of balance as I feared it might be. It's still inelegant, but it's not grotesque. Maybe there's some refinements or adjustments the HLC might request - the facade on Mission St might be articulated more to break up the facade, and it could use another entry. It doesn't really relate organically to the Mission St sidewalk. You can nitpick at it if you like, and you wouldn't necessarily be wrong. But the big picture seems decent enough.

The Staff Report recommends approval, and as far as these things go, there doesn't seem much reason to contest it.

It looks like the written record will be held open for another 7 days in case SCAN wants to bring more criticism, and maybe it will have to get voted on next month. Maybe, too, the zoning change Hearing on the 20th will complicate things. In the meantime, it seems neither catastrophic nor terrible.

Update 2, September 19th

Here's the Staff Report on the zoning change, which recommends approval.

This discussion of encroachment seems nuanced and reasonable, and interestingly seems to lean in the direction of a form-based code type interpretation:
Neither the classification of historic districts or resources as "Residential" or "Commercial," nor the design standards which implement tham take the place of the zoning code in establishing permitted land uses. The predominantly residential Gaiety Hill/Bush's Pasture Park Historic District includes some non-residential uses, just as the "Commercial" Salem downtown Historic District includes some residential uses. In summary, the Residential Historic District designation is implemented by standards limiting incompatible design, materials, scale, and intensity of development - but not the specific uses allowed on the subject property....

The CO (Commercial Office) zone is frequently found along buffers between single family residential areas and more intensive commercial uses...City records indicated that CO zoning has abutted RS zoning along the corridor since at least 1976, prior to the designation of the Gaiety Hill/Bush's Pasture Park Historic District.
Some critics want to freeze the district in its "period of significance" from 1878 to 1938, but of course that would be peak streetcar era, and critics may not also be willing to dethrone the personal automobile for residents. Our historicism is not always deeply considered, and the City here may actually situate the historic district in a stronger sense of unfolding and active history than do critics, who sometimes want something more static.

At any rate, I find the City's answers persuasive here.


Anonymous said...

Strictly speaking, the buildings in the historical district would mean that this new building should sort of look the way it looks, even if the end result is weird and inefficient. In this case, the attempts at historic preservation hamstring any potential purchaser/developer. It would be - to me - much more exciting to see a version of multifamily housing that could occupy the "missing middle."

As the project planner for this development said at the last SCAN meeting, this particular lot doesn't lend itself to redeveloping single family homes. I would also add that it doesn't lend itself to a giant Craftsman-Bungalow style doctor's office. It could be a great location for some "low density" multifamily housing, and the architectural style should have fewer constraints.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

That could be a great improvement and totally fit the character of the district, the perfect compromise. Do you know if something like this was even considered?

The authors of the Missing Middle concept have even identified a pretty exact match, in fact: The Bungalow Court.

Salem has used this type in the past. If folks haven't seen them, examples can be found at:

1300 block of Saginaw St. S
1000 block of Howard St. SE - "Howard Court"
Two in the 700 block on Cottage St NE
One on the 1100 block of Church St. NE
One the 1200 block of Chemeketa St. NE
Lesser examples are on 13th and Nebraska NE, as well as McNary and Second St. NW

Anonymous said...

I do not know if this was considered. It was not discussed at the SCAN meeting - which makes sense, as it would have been more than a little presumptuous to tell the prospective purchaser/developer, "Hey, you should have done something different to this piece of property that has been vacant for a decade." If nothing else, this issue has highlighted an interesting shortcoming (in my view) of the historic district. Rather than get increased residential density which would serve to help the City (more people living closer to the City's core using roads and services that already exist) we will get a weird building intended to be (more) medical offices.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

A reader sends in an historic newspaper clipping from 1925 with news on another bungalow court in the 400 block of Miller St S. Thanks!

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Why can't they build the structure as a two story building. Maybe even build two buildings. One could fact Mission and the other face Liberty, with parking hidden in the rear.

This design not only looks strange, it does not even try to fit the craftsman style except on one view.

I don't think it is our codes that are so bad, as much as it is a lack of talent that generates this kind of foolishness!

Anonymous said...

Building two buildings instead of one might sound better, but it would certainly increase the cost of construction. And if in fact the buildings were to be occupied by one business, as this would-be-owner intends, would the patients and employees have to shuttle between two buildings? Their design isn't foolishness - it appears to be an honest attempt to clear the hurdle set by the various jurisdictions.

Anonymous said...

I believe this will be the best option for the location and the neighborhood. The design is predicated by City policy it looks like the designers are trying to appease all the code regulations. I also do not believe a doctors office can function in two separate buildings. It is a nice addition to the corner.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The picutres of the bungalows are rather small - they do come in all sizes so not sure if it is fair to post without other variations- there are large, medium and small- some with 2nd stories some without- there is a multide of bungalows to compare with. Regarding the corner itself and the surrounding changes t/o the decades - I am not sure it is a viable place for Single family houseing anymore as it has become a extremaly busy corner- it sits at the conflunence of 2 MAJOR arterials north/south and east/west leading into downtown and out of- this will not change nor decrease as they are the major routes - The noise level, congestion and polution from traffice soot just does not appeal to many for living right on. Also would not density mult family house look just as large and out of place on this niosy congested corner? - Is this any different than a large Bungular? Some have stated - not here- that the lot should be taken out of the historical disctict - at least remaining in they would have to build something that is in keeping with the area and not a plain box - Mostly I would state this corner has lost its value as a place to live in that way it has become unstainable. There are nicer and better places for mult houseing, this corner is not one.

Anonymous said...

Here's the hearing notice for the zoning changes -

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with a brief note on the Staff Report and a couple of new elevations.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with note on Staff Report to Planning Commission on the zoning change.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said... more note of interest: "The Applicant's Traffic Engineer has estimated current volumes...assuming an increase of 1% per year."

This might not be the actual first time, but it's the first time that it has registered that traffic engineers are using a growth rate of 1%/year instead of 2%. So the FHWA change might be trickling down. There might be more to say on this in another post!

Anonymous said...

Sure seems like a better option than the average new professional structure in town. I live in the area and walk by here a good deal, and would very much like to see something other than the overpowering "vacation lodge-meets-casino" architecture that often goes in these days.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's the Historic Landmarks Commission decision and the Planning Commission's decision. Both were approved.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Hinessight has a note on damage to the big Maple tree.