Salem, Oregon is cursed by a Blah Witch. That's pretty damn clear.
Whenever something creative, energetic, and enticing comes on the Capital City scene, it encouragingly flashes into life, then starts to dim until Salem's stultifying atmosphere snuffs it out. At best, a few mildly glowing embers remain to remind us of the luster that a genuinely vibrant urban area, such as Portland, offers its residents.
One example is the Sustainable Fairview project that my wife and I bought shares in quite a few years ago. Plans were for a world-class mixed use oh-so-Green development featuring residences, lots of open space, and a village center where people could mingle, shop, and play.
So far, only thirty-two out of 276 acres have been developed by the Pringle Creek Community folks.
They're doing a great job, but what's transpired on the location of the old Fairview Training Center isn't anywhere close to what was planned. Meanwhile, the Villebois sustainable development in Wilsonville, a sister project to Sustainable Fairview, has moved ahead nicely.
Like I said, Salem is cursed.
Here's more proof: the vaunted renovation of the disgustingly ugly Boise Cascade site near the downtown riverfront looks like it is going to be a shadow of what was promised back in 2009.
A dreary and vacant industrial complex along Salem’s waterfront is poised to become a gem, said Tim Gerling, a consultant working on the redevelopment of the Boise Cascade site.
“What we’re talking about is true mixed use on a scale that Salem has not seen before,” Gerling said.
...The 13-acre Boise site has already attracted interest from prospective occupants, including a health club, a hotel, restaurant and an office user. No deals have been finalized, Gerling said The consultant, a former public works director for Salem, gave the business community on update on the Boise Cascade site at a luncheon sponsored by the Strategic Economic Development Corp. More than 150 people attended the Thursday event.
In 2007, developers Dan Berrey and Larry Tokarski purchased the Boise Cascade site in downtown Salem for $7.25 million. The mixed-use development proposed for the property would include office buildings, shops, restaurants, and condominiums. It is designed to complement, not compete with the city’s existing downtown businesses, Gerling said.
So my wife and I pictured being able to walk to the development from downtown, strolling along the river to restaurants, shopping, night spots. We could enjoy a taste of Paris, or at least San Antonio, sipping our lattes with a view of Minto Brown Island and pleasantly people-watching.
The reality, sadly, appears to be quite different.
Changes in the real estate market stifled plans for redevelopment before they could become reality, and Tokarski said his group literally has had to go back to the drawing board."What we have done is looked at what the market wants right now, and that is apartments," Tokarski said.
...The next phase will be at the structure to the south of the creek. The current structure will be reinforced to better stand up to a seismic event, then the lower two floors will be remodeled to accommodate 500 indoor parking spaces.
The top floor will be demolished to make way for four new levels with space for 100 apartments, a 10,000-square-foot day care center and up to 12,000 square feet of "neighborhood" retail space, Tokarski said.
Developers envision insurance, medical or other destination retail offices instead of specialty boutiques or big box stores.
Wow! Parking spaces, apartments, a day care center, and -- oh, please, let this be true -- insurance and medical offices! It'll be so much fun to walk by and see people sitting in the waiting rooms.
Today a big "Yes!" screamed inside my head when I read a letter to the editor in the Statesman Journal. John Craig Nielson nailed it in "Plan for Boise Cascade site is a mistake."
Here's his letter in its right-on entirety.
After years of talk, studies, proposals, etc., we finally get an idea of what the new owners of the Boise Cascade site are planning for this critical riverfront property.
What a joke! One hundred apartments and a huge parking structure, all based on rehabbing an old industrial warehouse?
Downtown Salem does not need 100 apartments and a mega-parking structure. To construct that amount of apartments obviously means they will likely be low-income units because Salem can't fill any of the "upscale" units that already exist.
I can't imagine too many professional, medical or retail companies that would want to locate in that environment.
The developers are taking the "cheapest" way to maximize their investment. What happened to the multi-use, park-like setting with shops, restaurants, open spaces, etc., that was originally touted?
This plan is a big mistake and would turn the property into another eyesore and waste of potential. But it would complement Courthouse Square and provide a view of the storage units that border Wallace Marine Park and enhance the beauty of our West Salem Riverfront.
Come on Salem, wake up to this "fiasco." Don't allow this waste of prime downtown riverfront. Make it something that all of us can enjoy and take pride in.
John, I admire your optimism and enthusiasm. But you're forgetting about the Salem curse. We're doomed to mediocrity. We'll always look north to Portland and south to Corvallis/Eugene and think, why can't Salem be more like those cities?
Today the Statesman Journal also had a front page story about Salem's Courthouse Square debacle, "What went wrong at Courthouse Square?"
Richard Rogers, a manager at the Oregon Building Codes Division, said there is an expectation that "someone will chase through these (engineering) calculations" to determine the viability of structures. In his 11 years with the state's building codes division, Rogers said he hasn't seen another real estate development with the magnitude of problems found at Courthouse Square.
Of course you haven't, Richard. There's only one cursed city in Oregon, Salem.
Here's links to some previous blog posts about the Boise Cascade development:
"Salem's curse continues: riverfront development stalls"
"Salem's riverfront: frustrating concrete wasteland"