Oh, man... just what I didn't need so early in the new year -- another reason to be depressed about the prospects of Salem, Oregon being able to ditch it's well-deserved nickname, So-Lame.
Today the Statesman Journal newspaper revealed what the Tokarski clan at Mountain West Development are planning for the 13 acre downtown riverfront site which used to house a Boise Cascade paper converting plant and now is to become Pringle Square.
Download Pringle Square story PDF
Rental apartments. Unbeautifully stacked in what reminds me and my wife of (1) North Korean housing, (2) Chicago "projects," or (3) a poorly designed airline terminal. The development doesn't look any better from closer up.
Garish. Flat roofs. Seemingly no attention paid to sustainability. (The newspaper story says "Salem staffers have recommended approval with a number of conditions, such as improvements to pedestrian access and the addition of bicycle parking.")
A shell of the paper plant still uglifies the view from Commercial Street. Some Pollyannish commenters on the newspaper story say that us critics of Pringle Square should shut up, because anything would be better than what is there now.
Wow. That's a reflection of Salem's disturbing acceptance of mediocrity.
While our much more vibrant neighbors to the north and south, Portland and Corvallis, press ahead with 21st century developments, we here in So-Lame are supposed to accept an oh-so-blah barely-mixed use plan for a highly important riverfront area that deserves a hell of lot better than a design which might have looked trendy in 1960.
I understand that the real estate market is in a downturn at the moment. But Salem shouldn't allow temporary financial conditions to dictate how the southern portion of the downtown riverfront will look for decades into the future.
Only a few years ago, Mountain West Development had quite different plans for Pringle Square. The plans above are from a 2008 Statesman Journal story.
At a Thursday open house where a developer unveiled its plans for the Boise Cascade site, a small crowd of Salem residents looked over drawings showing the dormant industrial site replaced with a mixed-use development.
Most seemed to have an optimistic outlook for the transformation planned for the 13-acre property.
"I think it's a great idea and a great opportunity," said James Kohn, whose home is a 10- minute walk from the Boise property. Many critics think Salem can't pull together a showcase downtown development, Kohn said, but in his view, the mixed-use project is "pretty much on the mark."
"I want to live here. I want to be right at the top," Salem resident Hazel Patton said as she looked over plans for town houses. The property is a perfect location for a mixed-use development, and it will provide "a strong anchor" for the downtown area, she said.
...Where the old mill building now stands on Commercial Street SE, developers want to build a hotel, a restaurant and office space.
Meanwhile, a large share of the building's southern portion of the site would be spared and remodeled for new uses. The first construction work on the site likely will be converting the warehouse on the south block into a parking garage with as many as 550 spaces, Gerling said.
In addition, about 80 town house-style apartments would be built on top of the warehouse.
Site plans also call for a full-service gymnasium with a swimming pool to be built alongside the former warehouse. Several local gym operators have expressed an interest in the location, but no deals have been struck, Gerling said.
Now, no talk of condos, restaurant, or hotel. The "mixed use" side of Pringle Square reportedly is to be such wildly unexciting businesses as insurance and medical offices. This isn't what people in Salem envisioned when the city worked out a deal with the developers back in 2007.
Like I said last year in "Salem's riverfront development looks like a loser":
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.
What a waste of prime riverfront property. Nobody is going to want to visit Pringle Square to peer through the window of an insurance office, dreaming of how cool it would be to walk in and talk about a multi-car premium discount.
Last year a fellow griper, John Craig Nielson, wrote a letter to the editor about the Mountain West riverfront development. He nailed it then; given the recently revealed Pringle Square plan, he's still right-on now.
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.