Friday, June 25, 2021

Demolition for the Nordstrom Store Site Shows Limits for 1970s Style Urban Renewal - Updated

Though it may not yet quite be a done deal, the matter at Council suggests the end of the former Nordstrom store, distinct from the adjoining mall portion, is very close, and may have a definite form.

SW corner, shortly after completion, 1980
Salem Library Historic Photos

Demolition of the store would make for a lifespan of just over 40 years for that part of the structure. That is short.

The structure's blank walls and skybridges expressed a fundamental hostility to sidewalk life and walking, and contributed to the autoist erosion of downtown.

The block (north on right), 1950 Sanborn

The buildings it replaced may or may not have been viable individually, but collectively together they formed a much more interesting set of buildings, and a more diverse set of building uses. The mixed ecosystem over a longer term would have been healthier and more sustainable.

Church Demolition, SW corner, 1963
Salem Library Historic Photos

Demolition, NE corner, 1978
Salem Library Historic Photos

Site fully scraped, 1979 (same orientation as Sanborn)
Salem Library Historic Photos

As we consider the Saffron/UGM block for a new round of urban renewal, we should give careful thought to the last round of urban renewal and the ways it did not generate a sustainable revival.

Historic preservation in and of itself is not always the answer. It is too often itself a denial of historical processes and change, a nostalgic clinging to the past that has exclusionary functions. But our fad for monoculture and big box redevelopment in the last century was a mistake, and needs, as our current talk about mixed-use redevelopment in Our Salem suggests is happening, a course-correction.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

On FB a person suggests that only the store footprint itself would be demolished, not the adjoining parts of the mall. (The northern section north of Center Street is entirely untouched here.)

So there are details to clarify.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Edit: Yeah, that looks like it's the case, and this has been rewritten slightly to emphasize that the adjoining mall is not part of the plan.