Thursday, October 17, 2019

990 Broadway Project Looks Great; Proposed Mural Runs into Red Tape

The City's published two Hearing Notices, one for a small apartment block, the other for a mural. The one for the mural looks like an obvious instance of regulatory overreach and suggests reconsidering the process.

The Hearing Notice for the apartment block looks on the surface to be a terrific project just up the street from Boon's, on the corner of E Street and Broadway NE.

Pretty sure this is looking southeast (180 degrees switched)

That southeast view: It's an empty lot now
The proposal is for a "three story mixed-use multi-family and retail development on a vacant portion of the site, and maintaining an existing parking lot and driveways." There would be 23 apartments, a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom units, above and behind a ground floor storefront. (The third floor has a mezzanine with lofts, so it's maybe like three and one half total floors?) A parking lot wraps in an "L" around the building, which sits flush to the sidewalk on the corner. The main building entry is off the side part of the lot and the building wraps in a "U" around a courtyard with the entry.

With the site plan and design review are some requests for small adjustments on parking and landscaping. On the surface these also look reasonable.

There will probably be more to say when the Staff Report comes out. Bike parking is under an overhang, so it's sheltered, there's a nice interior courtyard and a balance of public/private space, and it's streetcar-scaled. Salem doesn't have many buildings like this any more.

Similarly massed and streetcar-scaled:
Court Apartments - Jan 1st, 1916
What's not to like? It looks like a lovely addition to the area and nicely proportioned.

I want more development like this. I know it's not "missing middle"; it's bigger. But it's so much more urbane and walkable than our autoist clusters of similarly-sized buildings set on a giant parking lot and recessed from public sidewalks and street frontage like this.

Site plan from a few years back: Three story walkups
on a vast parking lot
Red Tape for a Mural

I guess this is like the sign code and hearings and process for that - all the fear of visual clutter and vulgarity and such.

But it seems strange that murals downtown for "Mirror Maze" and "Waldo Stewards" did not require a formal Public Hearing. They just appeared. The Art Association wanted a sculpture, and it just appeared in Bush Park. None of our recent art installations required a Public Hearing.

Proposed mural for Miller Street SE
But want to put a little decoration on your building that's privately owned? Gotta hold a Hearing.

The Public Art Commission will evaluate and deliberate on this landscape concept for Miller Street at Commercial, right by the Best Little Road House and the Wild Bird store.

This seems like unnecessary gatekeeping and curation. Why? What real public need does this serve?


So wait, remember some slides from the State Street Corridor Study that showed problems with a certain kind of development penciling out? This 990 Broadway project is basically the same size!

Four stories of retail and housing: Ideal

Doesn't pencil out
So how is this project penciling out? Has the market changed? Is the smaller parking lot that much of a determining factor? What are the relevant factors here? There is public interest in learning more about why this project is moving forward and the State Street example was regarded as "not feasible"!

(Update to the Addendum: The lot is in both the Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Area and one Salem's Opportunity Zones. Maybe this is the factor.)


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Added a couple of notes on a comparison with a hypothetical development on State Street.)

Aron said...

Though not a patron of that particular industry, I am a homeowner in the neighborhood of this mural and personally, I love it. It's much more uniquely "Salem" than anything else I've seen around town.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The Staff Report on 990 Broadway recommends approval and raises no serious criticism. Interestingly, because of the North Broadway Parking Study's bonus allowances, it finds that there is no need for an adjustment on the parking lot size, and the proposed lot stall number meets requirements already. I don't know that there's more to say. Hopefully it can break ground soon.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Of course those nice street tress will be removed, but....