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July 24, 2014

Comments

Great post Brian. I agree. I could be for downtown meters if it were done right and were part of a comprehensive strategy to make downtown the prime business district and tourist destination of Salem.

The fact that all the new businesses have been going in on S. Commercial (e.g., Trader Joes, Five Guys, Panera Bread, etc.) shows a real failure of city leadership. If we had the right parking policies those businesses might have gone in downtown. That would have been great! The City also should have leaned hard on the the Social Security Administration to locate downtown instead of on McGilchrist. Downtown is really being neglected under the current City leadership.

Parking in downtown Salem whether free and unlimited, with meters (as it was at one time), paid for with a tax on businesses or for limited durations has been an issue for over 40 years. To suggest that this issue doesn't get enough public comment would be to overlook the barrels of ink and gigabytes of email that surround the topic every time it is raised.
Jim Scheppke's comments are correct to a point. There are a variety of issues that businesses consider when locating including localized demographics, appropriateness of available business space, traffic patterns, parking, rent structures and the list goes on. In each case, the city has a role that it fulfills but not every issue involved in these decisions can be determined by government action. The city, through the Urban Renewal District, has invested millions of dollars in revitalization efforts including parking garages. But the government can't do this alone. It needs an engaged, progressive private sector that is willing to join in this investment and vision of a vibrant and economically vital area. Fortunately we have seen outstanding examples of that spirit downtown and when appropriate we have seen the kind of public/private partnerships needed to move us forward.
At the same time, the Salem community has continued to see its downtown as its central commercial district. Just look at Eugene if you want to see what can go wrong in a core area.
Of course we're not going to win them all for a variety of reasons. I'm not sure the ones Jim mentions represent the losses he laments when I seen Pennys, Macys, Nordstrums, Ross, Kohls and other department stores continue their commitment to downtown. As a regular downtown customer, I'm thrilled to visit any one of our downtown restaurants, boutique stores or coffee shops. I can't make it through the week without a visit to Book Bin and there isn't a day I don't marvel at the rejuvenation of the Grand. Wednesdays is a farmer's market and during the summer it seems a weekly big event at Riverfront Park. I can now walk from downtown to West Salem away from traffic and will soon be able to walk to Roth's if I want to. Next year I can leave Cascade Bakery and take my lunch to Minto-Brown Island Park without hopping in my car. There is substantial and growing opportunities to live downtown if I want to give up my car completely.
I guess my point is that it's easy to point out the exceptions to the rule but for my money, Salem downtown has done nothing but get better since I moved here in 1966. As the city councilor for this area, I work daily to do my part to see that happen. And I think it would be news to all the businesses downtown and the investors building them that we should measure our success by where Five Guys choose to locate.

Chuck,

You are the one citing the exceptions to the rule. The fact is the strip malls, surface parking lots and overbuilt arterials are the rule in Salem. You proved that again last night. Very few people have a grocery within walking distance and if they do, its usually a pretty miserable experience. You are right that plenty of cities in Oregon have made similar mistakes to Salem. The differance is that most of them have acted boldly and swiftly to correct those mistakes and have succeeded in accomplishing many things in the area of urban design and livablility that Salem has failed to do (though it seems too often the city isn't even trying). You are also right that a progressive private sector is a key ingredient. That doesn't mean the city needs to put so much effort into pandering to the regressive crop of private sector developers that are drawn to Salem. What I have noticed in the short time that I have lived here is that the young families that we have met that do have progressive values do not see a future in Salem for themselves or their families, even when they do have jobs here. They have left for greener pastures in Portland, Corvallis, McMinnvillle, Eugene, Seattle, Boise, etc.... They are willing to pay higher taxes and endure long commutes so they don't have to live in Salem. When Holiday Retirement left they were very upfront about the fact there was no reason for them to be here because their employees didn't even live here.

Curt, nicely put. I often hear the same thing: people are pleased to work in Salem and take their paycheck back to Portland or wherever they want to live and raise a family.

Our City officials, like Bennett, have an outmoded view of economic development. They don't realize that quality of life is the driver now. Younger people aren't nearly as willing to live in a crappy place just to have a job.

Salem is way behind the times, the cutting edge -- heck, any sort of edge. Our city council's idea of improving transportation options is to build a $425 million third bridge rather than spend a few million on bike lanes.

As we saw at the last council meeting, City leaders consider that demolishing a historic building, Howard Hall, is justified so Salem Hospital can have 87 extra parking spaces. This sort of stuff turns off potential businesses and people who have a choice about where to relocate.

The only reason to choose Salem is that because this is such an undesirable place to live and start a business, it is cheaper to buy a house or lease a space here. Such is my understanding, at least.

So our lack of "coolness" makes Salem attractive to those who don't care about living in an attractive town.

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