Thursday, May 18, 2017

Police Station Design Unlikely to look like Bond Marketing Materials

Now that we have resolution on the new Police facility, let's talk about design a little. It's not any great insight to say that the drawing the City has been using to sell the revised Police Station bond is conceptual only.

Cop shop as playground? Look at all the kids!
Corner of Division and Commercial,
from mid-block, looking NW (see image below)
Still, the image has a number of problems, and while it might be a stretch to say it's wholly "misleading," it is more than a little bit of a rainbows and unicorns interpretation of things. It's a fanciful mock-up.

First off, where are all those little kids and their bikes are going to come from?!

That does not seem at all like a realistic expression for the street system here. Bike boulevards are recommended for local streets with less than 2,000 trips per day. Commercial directly in front of the station has over 30,000 trips per day. (But you know that it was a major arterial!) Even Division at the picture image has about 10,000 trips per day. If we want to encourage biking here, better facilities will be necessary. But really, this immediate neighborhood is not likely to be hospitable for kids on bikes, nor is it likely that the Police Station will be a drive-to destination for families to unload the bikes for family fun.

All the people in the picture are props in a fabulist interpretation, quite over-optimistic.

Do you remember the load of chickens in that crash a few years back?

On the doorstep of the Police Station site
The wide road, high traffic volumes, and high-speed, large-radius curves all induce speeding.

Commercial at Division, Northbound
There is a history of crashes at this corner, and it is unlikely that our Police Station will be open to the corner in the way that picture at top represents.

That is another element of fabulism.

There will be bollards and barricades!

The building too will be reinforced, and it seems unlikely there will be so much glass. Maybe there will actually be a way to have a public foyer and any community space be glazed that way, but it seems unlikely.

In response to a question about this a while back, a member of the local design and consultant team wrote:
you bring up valid points regarding the use of glass on a public safety facility. This is an artist’s rendition of what the building could look like. While there is not yet a design, the building will have a balance between safety features and the comfort of the users. Bullet resistant glass is usually used on the ground level of buildings like this. Overall threat assessment and seismic design will commence once an architect has been selected. Cost, energy efficiency, and natural light will also be factors in determining how much glass is used on the fa├žade. The majority of the glass you see in this image is conceptually where the community room and entrance lobby would be.
It's too strong to say the whole image was a confection to shore up support for the bond, but it's also at an extreme end of the spectrum of probable outcomes. It's something of an outlier and not very realistic or representative.

Proposed UGM center (2014)
Directly across the street from the Police Station site
Across the street Union Gospel Mission has been planning a new center and shelter, and this also is not likely to be an attractant for a nearby family gathering and play area. It will likely have the opposite effect, a repellent effect, even if that is unmerited or unjust.

Using children as props in the image also underscored the irony in the fact that Council chose not to protect children at the Library in the measure itself and to split off the Library issue. On the new City bond site, they wrote
In February 2017, City Council held a work session and unanimously decided to split the Library upgrades from the police facility. This maintains the Library upgrades and police facility funding as two separate issues. By keeping the issues separate, residents will be able to express their opinion on the bonds as individual items rather than a bundled package.
That pretty directly courts defeating the Library upgrade, doesn't it? It will be "ok" if opinion is not to save lives at the Library. This is an unseemly neutrality.

Moreover, the City and "Friends of Salem Police" will go all out for the Police Station bond, but it seems unlikely they will show the same enthusiasm for the Library.

Reasonable people will been on both sides of this bond measure for the Police station. But prospects for November in the face of a Schools bond do not seem very optimistic for the Library. It may be that the win for a needed Police facility will be a very bittersweet one indeed.

In any event, now that have passed the bond, it is interesting and important to ask, if we do in fact want our new Police Station to be a gathering place and focus for families and kids on this corner or nearby, what do we need to do to ensure this actually happens? More generally, what do we need to do in order to knit the building into the neighborhood fabric so that even while it is protected as necessary it is also not a fortress and bunker? With the UGM facility, this could become a small "district" of people in crisis, and it will be important to creation connections and invitations so it is not isolated or forbidding. Just as our social practices should seek to reintegrate people after crises, so should our urban fabric also enact connectivity.

Same corner today - Commercial and Division NE


Susann said...

I happen to be driving in this area earlier today at about 5:45 p.m. It occurred to me how hard it is going to be to get into the station if they put the entrance on Liberty. If coming from the south, how do you get across traffic? If you come from the north how do you get around the block? Do you go all the way up to Union and then come back on Liberty?

Another thing that bothers me about the potential design. How will they ensure safety from someone with a truck bomb. Like in Oklahoma City we learned that all a person needs to do is park a large truck near a building and it takes it all down. Would an earthquake standards be enough in that situation. The solution to fixing this problem in other situations has been to set the building further back from the street and putting up barriers so vehicles can't get close. But this block is so small such a setback is not possible.

Lastly, will we have to go through metal detectors like we do at the Court House?

One of the concepts was to have a large meeting room for public events. Ha!

We are going to have to be very vigilant about the design and the expenditures. We need to make sure that they hire least Oregon...for the architects and that the contractors all be from the Salem area so that our hard earned tax dollars can stay here.

Also, I totally agree about the Library bond. We will not be seeing the same level of effort to pass it as we saw for the police. It is naive to think that putting the issue on a separate bond was anything more than to placate the critics.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

There was no school bond, that being deferred until next May, and the Library bond passed with about 63% - so it all worked out in the end.