Friday, July 16, 2021

Nishioka Building Completes an Important Downtown Intersection

This is old news, the building having been dedicated last year. Still, it was very nice finally to see the new Nishioka building on State and Commercial from the sidewalk on a leisurely evening walk.

A major void filled!

The void in 2013

The corner is significant here as the first instance of Harry Scott's bicycle store was on the alley on State Street. World War I closed him up, and he reopened around the corner at the location we still know today.

Scott's first store on left, c. 1914 (Oregon State Library)

But in a more general history the corner is important for the Griswold block, aka Murphy block, one of the earliest brick blocks in Salem, built around 1854.

The first brick block there

For a while the intersection of State and Commercial was the real center and focus of Salem. On an early AAA map of Salem, you can see the circled intersection. It is important now to have all four corners filled!

Early AAA map:  Salem in 1917

The building itself is no fake historical copy of an older style. It's clearly modern. Yet it takes many of its cues from streetcar era blocks from a century ago, and it is easy to see why the Historic Landmarks Commission recently recognized it with a Ben Maxwell Award as an "outstanding example of new construction in a historic district."

It may be worth coming back to the notion of "compatibility" in historic districts as it is exemplified here. So often compatibility gets yoked to NIMBY ends as a way to exclude or to make something new more difficult or more expensive. It has become a problematic criteria, especially as we face our housing crisis. Here, compatibility yields a building that continues the scale and harmony of downtown. In 50 years when it is no longer contemporary, at a casual glance it may no longer read as substantially newer than the Pioneer Trust building across the street, a full century older. It really continues the urban fabric.

All in all it looks like terrific addition, and: More, please, on the empty lots! Hopefully it will be leased up with residents and business on the ground floor, and people will look to it as a successful model.

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