It’s been a while since I’ve written about Sustainable Fairview, the 275 acre sustainable development that is being planned here in Salem on the site of the old Fairview Training Center. Laurel and I are investors in Sustainable Fairview Associates (SFA), the group that bought the property from the state in 2002 and since has been planning how to make Fairview into a model mixed-use Green community.
Currently, one 30-acre parcel has been sold by SFA to a local company, Sustainable Development LLC. Initially another local developer, Chris Jones, planned to buy this parcel, but that deal fell through.
An article by Randy Gragg in last Sunday’s Oregonian about Opsis Architecture had a mention of plans for what has come to be known in SFA circles as the “North 30.” The article says that Opsis, in the person of James Meyer (an SFA consultant), “is at work designing the first phase: a 30-acre, 200-home subdivision in which 20 of the homes will be ‘zero-energy,’ producing as much power as they consume.”
That sounds great. In the past I’ve been a critic of how SFA has gone about planning Sustainable Fairview (here’s one example, and here’s another). But even with all the missteps and missed opportunities, I’m on the edge of becoming a strong believer in the project.
I have to say “on the edge” because SFA is at a crossroads, and it’s uncertain what direction Sustainable Fairview will be moving toward. Logically, the basic choices SFA has are (1) to keep selling off chunks of the remaining 245 acres to various developers, or (2) to find a “master developer” willing and able to take on the challenge of moving the entire remainder of the project from Master Plan to Green Reality.
Laurel and I strongly favor the second option. I believe most of our fellow SFA investors do also. There are about 150 acres earmarked for residential uses and about 95 acres earmarked for other uses—such as a Village Center and other sorts of commercial development. We’d like to see these mixed-uses not get unduly mixed up by having residential and commercial land sold to different developers.
This approach would seem to be at odds with the integrated ecological planning that is one of the hallmarks of sustainable communities. And practically speaking, we’re afraid that once the prime hillside residential land is sold (the acreage getting the most interest from potential buyers), it will be difficult to find a developer who wants to take on the more difficult task of renovating or removing the many old buildings on the lower condo/commercial part of Fairview.
Still, no matter what happens with Sustainable Fairview the 275 acres are going to be developed in a much Greener fashion than would have occurred if a traditional developer had gotten his/her hands on this unique property. The only question is how Green Fairview will be, since the zoning code and CC&Rs require a baseline commitment to sustainability. How high above that foundation will Fairview be able to rise? This remains to be seen.
I’m hopeful that one day Fairview will be featured in articles such as this “The Best Places to Live” piece from Organic Style. It starts this way: “Meet the latest coast-to-coast phenomenon: communities built around a love of nature, respect for the planet, and old-fashioned neighborliness. Build it and they will come: That’s a perfect description of these 10 environmentally friendly communities—from Portland, Oregon to New York City—described on the following pages.”
The Portland project is The Henry, 123 condominium apartments in the Pearl District. The article says that it was named for Henry Weinhard, owner of the brewery that once stood where The Henry does now. OK. Whatever works is the rule when it comes to naming.
Early on I gave some thought to a new name for “Fairview.” “Sustainable Fairview” doesn’t do much for me. I figured that a community committed to a bold, fresh approach to living and working sustainably needed a fittingly exotic name.
Terramore came to mind: love (amore) of the earth (terra). However “Fairview” ends up being called, by its current or another name, may the project become a emblem of just that: love of the earth. God knows, Earth needs all the love we humans can give it.
The Beatles said: “In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” That’s about as poetically succinct a description of sustainability as you could find.