Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Downtown Streetscape Plan Kicks off with Thursday Open House - Updated

Three or maybe four distinct sidewalk zones
The public portion of the Downtown Streetscape Study kicks off on Thursday, and it will be very interesting to see where they go with it.

There is probably a conventional anatomy of a sidewalk out there somewhere (oh yeah, here's NACTO's), but when I think of the sidewalks, I think of three or four distinct zones:
  • The car zone, at and just past the curb. There is auto parking and car traffic here.
  • The furniture zone: Signs, garbage cans, trees, public art, light fixtures, bike racks.
  • The walking through-zone: The pathway for people on foot and mostly kept clear.
  • The windows, vestibules, doors and passageways of the storefronts themselves.
The most critical thing to change has always seemed to be the car zone. We need to reduce the amount of zoomy traffic downtown in order to make it more comfortable and inviting for those not in cars.

If you can stage photos like this on Liberty at State,
that's evidence we have excess road capacity!
(via Downtown Salem fansite)
There is room for this, but it has seemed politically impossible, and the Streetscape Study has specifically excluded discussion of changes to the curb-to-curb configuration in the streets.

On the other side, changes to the storefronts will involve building owners, their consent, and their funding, so big changes there seem unlikely.

So what is left? A discussion of the furniture zone and the walking through-zone.

Curvy hedgey things atop brick planters -
Does this really improve anything? (More here)
Maybe there will be interesting and creative solutions that bubble up from the hive mind and from consultants, but this seems very much like it risks larding the sidewalks with more bric-a-brac and decoration, and leaving the structural elements largely in place.

We've already seen how benches and bike racks became a casualty of more pubic art.

Substituting one thing for another in the furniture zone
One thing I'd like to see is more history, especially information about buildings and businesses that used to occupy space that is now largely empty. Sometimes elements of the past were in fact more wonderful than the present, and we should consider why a continuous urban fabric of buildings and storefronts was more vital than the current swiss cheese with parking lots and voids. A successful streetscape plan will emphasize incentives for redeveloping empty lots and for housing that will add to the numbers of people on foot downtown. If we remain locked into the paradigm of downtown as a drive-to destination, we will not succeed.

The brewery at the Conference Center Sculpture Garden site
(Sick's Brewery via Salem Library Historic Photo)
From the City:
Do you have ideas about how to make Downtown Salem's sidewalks more inviting, exciting, or fun? We want to hear from you! Salem residents are invited to attend the Salem Streetscape Plan Kickoff Open House on Thurs., Nov. 30, 6 – 7:30 p.m. at the Senator Hearing Room/Courthouse Square, 555 Court St. NE. Those who cannot attend the open house are invited to participate virtually Nov. 30 – Dec. 22 at our online open house.​ The link will be live on Nov. 30​.
Update: And here is the survey-slash-online open house.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(updated with the live link to the survey/online open house)