Monday, August 29, 2016

DAS Ad for North Campus of State Hospital is Interesting

Well, this interesting. While reading some of the paper online over the weekend, this ad for the north campus of the State Hospital popped up. (Have you seen it?)

Ad running online at, 27 August 2016
I had not seen this zoning concept before. It's not something the City or State is doing much to share or publicize, it seems.

The concept is identified in the current RFP as "Highest and Best Uses per Appraisal – NOT a proposed development plan." So it's something buried inside the appraisal, a further development off the Leland study. (The appraisal doc is 473pp, but it has a bunch of other documents appended to it, including the "Framework Master Plan" from 2005.)

It suggests that the City has given up on acquiring the northwest corner for a park, and instead demarcates a smaller center portion on D Street for park land (brown). The northwest and southeast corners are both designated for commercial-office space.

Breitenbush Hall area is marked for mixed-use, and the main area of demolition with Santiam, McKenzie, and Eola Halls, for RM2, high density residential.

The northeast corner is marked for RM1, medium-density residential.

It seems to me that this may miss on the value of the corners, which ought to be the mixed-use zones. The appraisal doesn't appear directly to engage its reasoning for dealing with the corners as it does, so this might be more arbitrary than not. At the same time, if 25th is brought up to current standards for a public street with sidewalks and such, there will be real corners on it. But 25th will still be an interior street, without direct continuation north and south. The corners on 23rd and Park will be more lively, and these seem like they merit greater thought and attention. These corners will be the cornerstone for the project.

As a mixed-use scheme, then, this concept plan still seems more autoist than walkable, an inferior expression of a mixed-use master plan.

The ad redirects to this sales page, and several other reports are linked from that.

The appraisal, for example, also lists other infrastructure requirements:
  • Upgrading frontage roads - $750,000
  • Intersection improvements - $1,000,000
  • Water lines may need to be replaced
  • Onsite wells may need backflow devices and/or other improvements
  • Storm and sanitary sewer needs work, including a new sewer main - $600,000
  • A storm water study is necessary - $25,000
The RFP to my eye reads pretty reasonably. It includes a final section on "Considerations":
Please take these community interests into account when exploring uses for the property.
  • Relationship to context. Development to the north and east of the site is primarily single-family residential. To the west and south are large scale, densely developed medical uses.
  • Multifamily. The City of Salem lacks multifamily land, has historically-low vacancy, and is experiencing rising rents (15% year-over-year increase).
  • Need for open space. Appraiser recommends approximately 5 acres of contiguous park space, fronting on D Street. Others have suggested more.
  • Impact to D Street. Neighbors like the low-traffic nature of D Street; directing most traffic to Center, Park, and 23rd will be better received than driveways on D Street.
  • Employment. Jobs are always welcome.
  • Neighborhood-Scale Retail. Despite the major employer across the street, the vicinity is essentially devoid of restaurant/retail options and lacks commercial-use land.
While these "considerations" don't appear to be binding at all, and if you are inclined to a cynical reading, they could be just empty lip-service; at the same time, if a developer took them seriously, they would be a good and fair-minded guide.

Otherwise I don't know there's anything much here to argue at the moment.

Early plats show small orchard/farm land clearly;
We've planted trees here and cut them down before.
(Heritage and Identity presentation on Lansing-NESCA)
The tree-removal and demolition plan seems defensible, and while some do not agree with it, the criticism of it has seemed overwrought and insufficiently sensitive to the actual challenges of the site, the old buildings set on a mid-century campus away from the sidewalks, and of Salem's housing and development needs. That criticism has seemed to occupy an idealized world too far removed from what actually is. (Other criticism about the lack of public process and master planning has more merit, however.)

It's important also to remember the Dome Building and Yaquina Hall are being saved; the plan truly occupies a central place in the debate about which reasonable people can disagree.

Once a buyer is identified and begins to articulate plans - well, then there might be more to argue!

(For all notes on the North Campus project, see here.)


Susann Kaltwasser said...

I suspect that the zoning in this illustration is just proposed. The current zoning is public use so would need to be changed by going through the City process.

Most disappointing is the potential loss of the park altogether. City staff suggested it was unneeded and even if they got it for a dollar as once proposed, because of the development and maintenance costs.

I predict that this land will be sitting cleared and vacant for many years. It is going to cost a lot of money to re-develop this property. It would need to have a pretty high guaranteed return on investment to make it worth the effort. I am not sure this area has that kind of high-end potential. As much as we need multifamily development, this is going to cost a lot of money in just basic infrastructures.

I hope someone proves me wrong!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Not sure this merits a separate post, but it interesting to note. Both Salem Weekly and Hinessight have news about another proposal for the North Campus.

DAS rejected it, and there's not enough information in the press release to determine anything meaningful about the proposal itself or the reasons DAS didn't like it.

It would be helpful for DAS to share more about why it was not considered credible.