Agreed: something needs to be done with the ghastly urban ruin -- the defunct Boise Cascade property -- lying along Salem's downtown riverfront.
But something is a long way from anything.
As noted in a previous post about Mountain West Investment's proposed Pringle Square development, the spin being put on this uncreative mix of rental apartments and a nursing home (otherwise known as a post-acute rehabilitation facility) is that anything is better than the nothing of the rubble existing now.
Well, that's the traditional negative Salem attitude.
Portland, Corvallis, Eugene, and other cool Oregon cities get the appealing stuff. Supposedly we don't have the demographics, the creative class, the per capita income, the vibe, the whatever for a truly first-class development.
In this case, a mixed use development that, if done right, would showcase Salem's riverfront, drawing both new and current residents to live, work, and play in a downtown area that has terrrific potential.
Sadly, much of that potential is being missed with the current uncreative plans being pushed by Larry Tokarski of Mountain West Investment, Marquis (the nursing home company), and the usual Chamber of Commerce gang spouting the "something is better than nothing" line.
For a glimpse of what could be, check out today's Salem Breakfast on Bikes post, "Here's one idea for Pringle Square access -- What's your idea?" It looks for alternatives to making the Carousel parking lot into a thoroughfare to the apartment complex. And to the overall current design.
Anyway, here's one idea for a solution. It accepts the basic deployment of the building units.
(A different site plan is almost certainly necessary for an optimal access solution. As one commenter pointed out on the paper's article yesterday, the development lacks a waterfront restaurant. It really seems like a better, more vibrant mixed-use scheme can be envisioned, and with that would come a different circulation pattern. It's likely in the community's interest to go slow and get it right; the developer, on the other hand, probably wants to build now. Somewhere in the middle hopefully there's a sweet spot of compromise.)
The idea here uses an already-planned driveway that goes underneaththe trestle. It then requires a footbridge across the creek for access to the apartments. It would be preferable to have a public footbridge and for the apartment complex to be less of a gated enclave, but if necessary, the parking lot and footbridge could be private.
The footbridge concept is - perhaps naively - premised on the notion that spanning pringle creek is much shorter and would be easier and cheaper than spanning the slough. The connection to the Carousel lot would be retained, but only for non-motorized travel (and emergency response). This would give people on bike and on foot a direct shot to State Street and downtown.
For sure there are other creative ways to improve Pringle Square. Including ditching the notion of a nursing home being a centerpiece of Salem's one and only downtown riverfront area.
As I noted here, City of Salem planning staff concluded that a nursing home isn't an allowed use in the South Waterfront Mixed Use zone. But the Salem Planning Commission, which is stacked with "anything is better than nothing" folks, ignored the staff recommendation.
Only in Salem... would City officials consider that a freaking nursing home deserves to be a highlight of the area adjacent to Salem's Convention Center, Carousel, and Riverfront Park. Look, I'm about to turn 65. I'm all for great health care facilities -- for the elderly, for the young, for everyone.
But not on Salem's riverfront; not when a nursing home isn't even allowed there by the zoning code; and not when Marquis and Mountain West Investment are pushing a clearly illegal scheme to call nursing home beds "downtown multi-family housing" in order to get a tax break.
What bothers me about the way Pringle Square is being planned is the developers' unreasonable sense of entitlement. They appear to view the re-purposing of the Boise Cascade property as a one-way street: the public gives, and the private sector gets.
As noted in the Breakfast on Bikes post, a fence is planned that will wall off the Pringle Square apartments from the outside world. Residents will be able to pass through to use the publicly-funded amenties at Riverfront Park. The taxpayers who paid for those amenities apparently will be barred from Pringle Square.
Also, Mountain West Investment and Marquis want to avoid paying property taxes. The money lost by the City of Salem will be paid by other people. Or services will be cut by the City. More taking, not giving.
The developers of Pringle Square fail to sufficiently realize that they are a part of a community with mutual obligations, not private entrepreneurs who have the right to profit at the expense of those who laid the foundation for the success of a riverfront re-development.
Both the developers and the City of Salem need to slow down. Engage people. Listen to the concerns of those who want to preserve what Riverfront Park currently offers. Get creative. Expand your vision beyond the ordinary. Aim higher than mediocrity.
Yesterday the Statesman Journal ran a story about Pringle Square, "Boise Cascade project's fate rests on access." The comments on the piece were interesting. I'm including them as a continuation to this post so they don't get lost when the story moves into the newspaper's archives.
Here's one of the comments that I agree with:
Comments of August 21 Statesman Journal story:
Boise Cascade project's fate rests on access
Stu Templeman ·
If the City Council approves any of this the citizens of Salem should be outraged. More traffic on Front St will only lead to more congestion which Front St bypass was built to eliminate, traffic flow will be slowed. 132 construction jobs will only last until construction is complete then what? 2.3 million in "new consumer spending" where are these big spending consumers coming from? Give up the $650,000 in taxes and charge $650,000 for easement to cross city property. How come these developers did not think of working out the problems before purchasing the property?
Let me give you another case in point. The City in all of their "wisdom" approved the 275 acre Sustainable Fairview development covering the NE corner of Battlecreek and Reed Roads. The property, with the exception of Pringle Creek Community's 10 lots out of 160 lots developed is still undeveloped. It is a blight on the landscape of South Salem and will likely never get off of the ground, if the City is in charge of its development. So what do we want, another blight on the landscape of Salem? That's what is going to happen if people with personal self interests are running the show. Surprise me City of Salem and do some forward thinking for a change.
This is not a charity.
BY the way i have nothing much against the plan other than i doubt they will attract enough of the income group they need.
The people they say they want live in PDX area..they dont live in Portland because of the accommodation ,they live there because there are plenty things to do on weekends and week nights.
I doubt the pleasures of Downtown Salem with the 9PM roll up sidewalks will having them flocking to The Residences.
Next we invested in a major public park for events; what guarantee, once this project is done, do we have that we don't see a ton of problems create by the development, new businesses and new residents who suddenly don't want all that noise?
No if this is a prime project it can be developed taking both access and the park issues into a long term agreement and without tax breaks. Use the tax breaks to create real, long term, and good wage type jobs... plenty of property out there that need those tax breaks to attract good employers!!
I would not be surprised if this issue starts another petition and will have to come to a public vote as the City council and the the City Manager are not understanding what this community wants it to accomplish
BY the way I was trying to figure out what revenue the City would get from the apartments and for fun took the $22 million and divided it by apartment per month..every one of the 118 apartments would need to generate $1553 PER MONTH for the city for 10 years to hit $22 million.