If you're a Salem, Oregon area resident who isn't regularly reading the Breakfast on Bikes blog, you should be!
It's not really about bicycling, though it partly is. Many, if not most, of the posts are focused on how our sometimes-fair city needs to improve alternative transportation and mixed use options.
Today's blog offering is an excellent overview of what's happening (and what isn't) with the re-development of the old Boise Cascade industrial property along Salem's riverfront: "Proposed Apartments for Boise Site Turn Backs on Park."
I agree with the overall conclusion.
It's great news that things are heating up again on the Boise redevelopment project.
Interestingly, the condos in the Boise shell itself are on the backburner, and apartments for what had been the third phase are now on the table. The location has significant challenges for different kinds of access as it is hemmed in by the railroad, park, and creek on each side. It's not likely an easy site to work with. But...there's always buts.
...More particularly, the design, called The Residences at Riverfront Park, actually turns its back on the Park and creates something of a gated community instead of a procession of interesting urban spaces from public, to private-public, to private. On the edges and at transitions, it doesn't collaborate very well with the park. But because of its location and the incentives offered by the City for developing it, it is reasonable to ask that it collaborate and be a better partner.
...Fortunately there is a space fronting the Carousel parking lot designated commercial. One can only hope for a cafe and sidewalk seating by the playground! Or something like that, anyway. That certainly looks like what the architect envisions in the elevation showing the entry drive. Maybe a wider sidewalk and a couple fewer parking stalls??? (The site plan may show a wider sidewalk.)
...In particular, I'm sure there are ways the transitions between the park and private space could have been managed to create a more inviting and dynamic set of edge conditions, conditions for strolling and even for commerce. The massing and fencing just creates too much of a compound or mall enclosed and separated from Park and City.
In general, the style and site plan feels like something that belongs more in the suburbs than right downtown. It's not terrible, but it could be better.
Such is Salem: a town that regresses toward mediocrity whenever an opportunity for great presents itself. We've seen this with downtown, the riverfront, Sustainable Fairview, Kroc Center, Keizer Station, the conference center, and other development efforts that end up being less than the Wow! they initially seem capable of.
I expected, though, that the development would be better integrated with Riverfront Park. Currently there's an ugly chain link fence separating the two. A new fancy chain link fence is a step in the right direction, I guess.
Just not what I was hoping for. Much will be forgiven, however, if a Cafe Yumm! or Native Foods restaurant ends up in the commercial zone close to the Carousel. Salem desperately needs more healthy/tasty vegetarian dining options.