Sunday, July 22, 2018

Transition on Keizer's Pugh House Suggests Questions on State Street

You probably saw online or in the paper the story about the Pugh-Hall-Savage House in Keizer on the rise at Chemawa and Verda, overlooking Claggett Creek. (And more in a previous note here.)

According to the article it never was dated securely: It's casually suggested it must have been built prior to 1875 and associated with the Pugh family, but an ODOT consultant earlier had suggested a date in the mid-1880s and an association with the Hall family, who purchased the land from the Pughs. The difference was not resolved. Either way it was thought to be the oldest extant house in Keizer.

via Keizer Times in 2016
(the back side of the house)
But it's gone now, presumably to be replaced by apartments.

The new zoning proposed for State Street has got attention because of its proximity to, and potential for shadows on, the Court-Chemeketa Historic District, but in important ways the more immediate impact will be to historic structures on State Street itself.

A real question about the zoning proposal is what collateral redvelopment will occur that might not be the primary aim of the re-zoning. More generally, is the zoning truly going to do what we want it to do? As I have zoomed out from a specific interest in elements of the street redesign, I am beginning to wonder if we are still using tools too crude and mismatched to our real aims. (If you were focused on the zoning from the start, this may be old news or uninteresting to you!)

The study had identified the "problem" it wanted to solve. The problem collectively was underdeveloped parking lots, empty land, and autoist, too-short, or obsolete building types.

The "Problem Statement" (almost like science!)
Land Use and Transportation Booklet
And it zeroed in on several "opportunity sites." Most of these are empty(ish).

Several potential locations for redevelopment are identified
(Preferred Land Use Option & Tier 2 Evaluation)
But what if the zoning prompts more in the way of tear-downs of actually useful buildings than redeveloping empty lots or empty/dilapidated buildings? Is the zoning properly targeted?

Significant Buildings on State Street

Here are some buildings we might have to mourn as the land is upzoned. I don't think the near-term prospects for change are at all likely, but the new zoning and prompts to redevelopment will render these obsolete if they are not already considered obsolete. That's not an accidental consequence, but is by design: feature, not bug. Fortunately, four of them enjoy some level of formal recognition. (They have red dots on the City's Historic Buildings map, if you want to poke around.)

adapted from the City's Historic Buildings map
Local Landmark Only

Burton House on 23rd & State - via Streetview (2012)
Though the Burton House is a little shabby, has been altered with a mid-century commercial storefront, and as a "local landmark" has city-level recognition only, it might be the most significant house on the street. Its architecture and style may not be not very important, but its building materials and family are. From the Discover blog:
Alvin A. Burton, with his brothers Luman, Edwin, and Percy, made up the firm of Burton Brothers, a brick making business in Salem. Other buildings constructed of Burton brick included "The State University at Eugene", the Chemawa Indian school, the Salem City Hall, the Odd Fellows building, the Bayne building and many others.
That's a strong relation to a lot of Salem history right there! Very nuts and bolts, bricks and mortar. Its location near the Penitentiary also suggests they might have been involved with the prison brick-making in the early 1900s.

I think there is some important history there that has been lost or has not been adequately told, and it is at risk. And as a material trace of the development of Salem and of State Street, it might tell us more than any other building on the street.

The Duniway Lachmund House has been moved several times, and the Moving History blog tells us about its role in several phases of city change:
The house was constructed before 1907 when Willis S. Duniway (1856-1913) and wife Alice McCormack Duniway are listed in Polk's Salem City Directory as residents there. Willis Duniway was the eldest son of Benjamin and Abigail Scott Duniway, early Oregon settlers. Abigail Scott Duniway was a pioneer advocate of women's suffrage.

When the residences of “Piety Hill” were demolished for the construction of the North Capitol Mall (1937-57), this one was shared [maybe spared?]. It was, at the time of the move, the residence of Louis Lachmund, President of the Capital Ice and Cold Storage Company for 20 years and mayor of Salem, was spared. It was purchased from the state by Willamette University and moved to the campus where it was the residence of the president. In the 1990s it was moved to its present location east at 2430 State Street.
On the National Register

Adolph House (1878) on right - notice similarity to Bush house!
on National Register of Historic Places
Across the street from the Duniway-Lachmund house, the Adolph House is the best preserved and best protected by its individual National Register listing and the fact that it is a successful office space, but the upzoning would allow something very different here. As a near twin for the Bush House, and coming while the country was still suffering from the depression that followed the Panic of 1873, the Adolph House doesn't get enough attention in our histories of Salem. It's also associated with the Adolph Block, home for Wild Pear and Cooke Stationary, and one of the most charming buildings in the Historic District downtown. (The Adolph Block is featured on the header for the Downtown Streetscape Study, in fact.)

Stratton House (Salem Library Historic Photos)
The Stratton House at what would be 16th also has an individual listing on the National Register, and is associated with a number of eminent Salemites. Again from the Discover blog:
This 1886-88 vernacular style residence has a unique two-story rectangular bay window angling from the front corner. A white birch in the front yard has been designated as a Heritage Tree.

It was built for Charles C. Stratton, Methodist minister, Chancellor of Willamette University and husband of Julia Eleanor Waller, daughter of Alvin Waller. By 1894 it had been sold to William Lord who had a distinguished Oregon political career including governor (1895-1900) while he lived here. (His daughter was Elizabeth Lord, the landscape garden and designer.) It was also the home of the Waters family and Congressmen (1907-1933) W.C. Hawley, a former Willamette president. [And namesake of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, since tariffs are in the news]
Lord's successor, and bikey favorite here, Governor Geer also lived in it some while serving. (The Ashby-Durbin house just north on Court Street and 15th also has a diagonal bay, interestingly. The Stratton Nomination says that Lord did not himself live in the home, however.)

Not Recognized

Early 1900s Evangelical Lutheran Christian Church of Salem
There are several more older buildings that have no formal recognition. There's a modest wood church in the 1700 block and the old Safeway on 14th, now home for the Capital Market and its destination beer mart.

And on 15th there is the Devereaux Apartments, which have at times operated as low-income housing. It shows the progression of yesterday's fancy housing filtering down with time to become affordable housing later.

Nearly a whole page on the Devereaux! (1937)
Maybe you have other favorites.

These may not be worth any protections, but they are moments in the street's history to register.

And it's not necessarily clear that it will be the empty parking lots that are redeveloped first. We might hope these historic buildings can hang around and be redeveloped last. But there are no guarantees.

Is the Corridor itself Enough?

Apart from the history angle, another question is whether rezoning a strip a block north and south of the street is actually going to be enough. (It extends a little more in a few places.)

via Twitter
Walkability expert Jeff Speck notes that nearby single-family housing is not sufficient to support walkable urbanism. To support the ground-floor retail in main street, mixed-use development, nearby housing needs to be able to supply a larger customer base than single-family housing can offer.

Essentially the whole neighborhood north of State Street and about 2/3 of the neighborhood south of State Street is zoned for duplexes or single-family housing.

Prevailing zoning north and south of State Street corridor
(City Zoning Map, notes added)
Our single-family RS standards don't have a table for density, but this chart from the Fairview Addition plan is very close.

A range of Salem densities (from Fairview Addition)
Our RM2 zoning, of which there is a cluster between 14th and 17th south of State Street, meets the minimum for "walkable urbanism," and calls for 12-28 homes/acre.

If we hope for the State Street zoning to provide a template that is portable for other corridors, we may not have grappled with the fact that the areas two, three, and four blocks away from the corridor may need more "missing middle" kinds of upzoning and redevelopment in order to support the redevelopment we want on the corridor itself. It seems significant that no new projects have gone in on Broadway near Salem Cinema and Broadway Commons. There was that flurry, and now a pause.

This problem of course also relates to our more general housing crisis, our surplus of land zoned for single-family housing, and our deficit of land zoned for multi-family housing.

So have we restricted our zoning template too tightly on the corridor and not thought through a larger patterning of gentle upzoning that it might take to make the corridor successful? It may not be possible to have a thriving streetcar-scaled main street that abruptly abuts a district of only single-family homes.

So we may need to pair the corridor template with an adjoining neighborhood piece for "missing middle" housing or something similar.

In the end it seems likely that there will be unanticipated surprises on the State Street corridor. Hopefully these will be more welcome than not. But as we think about porting the zoning to new corridors, we may need to adjust some things and to broaden the scope for a wider slice of neighboring property. And just in general, we should think more about historic processes and historic people and places in and around each corridor.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

There are some nice older homes on State Street that may not be on the historic register, but they have been renovated and lovingly restored. I think some are still residences, but many are serving as businesses. It would be a shame to lose them.

One of the smartest thing Salem did was to force the preservation of the homes on South Commercial between Mission and Rural. Every time we lose one of those houses, we lose a part of what makes Salem so interesting and livable.

I hate to see when an older home is torn down and some 'modern' building is put in its place. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Example at the corner of State and 22nd where the house was replaced with that 'modern' glass store front of the 60s style. No charm and never felt to be part of the community. Even the modern HOPE Orthopedic Center is problematic to my vision of what we should aspire to in that area.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

It's hard to find a nuanced position!

On the one hand, historic preservation is important and we have lately done a lousy job with it. Most of the demolitions have resulted in empty fields, empty gravel lots, and craters. Going from a building, even an empty one, to an even emptier field or parking lot is a terrible transition in land use.

On the other hand, take the 245 Court Street project, the mixed use apartments that replaced the old Safeway.

That's an excellent transition!

So there are important cases when "some modern building" is a definite improvement over an older building.

This can be true even when it's an older home. Sometimes historic preservation is used too much for exclusionary ends. The older neighborhoods that are in the streetcar era grid are among the most walkable, and if we are serious about urban walkability, about reducing drive-alone car trips, and about reducing our carbon footprints, we will want to make it possible for larger numbers of people to live in these walkable neighborhoods.

That almost certainly means some amount of replacement of older single-family housing and older buildings.

Scale matters.

A 1:1 tear-down demolition for a larger, fancier house is too often just a waste.

A 1:4 or 1:8 demolition for missing middle kinds of housing is something we have to think about very seriously.

On State Street and other corridors, a 1:20 demolition for an apartment block is potentially very valuable.

The argument on aesthetics, that a new larger building might "stick out like a sore thumb," sometimes is swamped by a kind of moral argument, that we need to house people in places that don't enforce compulsory autoism. Remember the way the early 20th century deed restrictions were often shaped on aesthetics. Moreover, the argument on aesthetics is generally made invisible or moot over time. The jumble of building styles in our Downtown Historic District was at one time full of jarring contrasts, but now we have absorbed the stylistic differences into a general notion of vintageness. Moreover, we went through a wave of demolitions on Victorian houses because they were ugly and gaudy; now we wish we still had them.

We should always subject this kind of aesthetic judgement about neighborhood character to higher standards of proof!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

And here's a more specific discussion of Liberty between State and Court to make some of those points in a more concrete way.