« "Coffee Party" movement fits my tastes | Main | 2010 Academy Awards lacked passion and unpredictability »

March 05, 2010


Being a former Salem resident who has been living in Corvallis for a few years, I can totally sympathize with you about Salem. It's a place bursting with potential and no one wants to take advantage of it. It's gotten better in the past 10 years, but I keep seeing the same mistakes. Salem has very little of interest. Like you mentioned, it has a lot of Subways, 3 Walmarts, 2 empty malls, a whole fleet of Walgreens, and pretty much every chain restaurant (albeit Salem isn't even cool enough to get some of the "better" ones).

When shopping at Trader Joe's in Corvallis (we also have two locally owned co-ops that are great and offer more local flavor), I've begun using my old Salem zip code when making purchases to hopefully make it clear how many people from Salem actually will support TJ's.

The only thing Salem has that I miss is Minto Brown Island. That park is a gem that many cities can't even touch.

So move to Portland.

Larry, if I changed my life every time I found that one thing in it "sucked" in comparison to some other thing, living would be impossible.

For example, the closets in our early 70's house suck when we compare them to much larger walk-in closets in newer homes, even those not as large or nice as our house.

This doesn't mean that we want to sell our house and get a new one. It simply means that our closets suck. Similarly, lots of people in live in Salem say "this town sucks" for valid reasons, but they don't want to move for equally valid reasons.

Keep your chin up. The Portlandization of Salem is beginning. New non-chain restaurants are cropping up and thriving even in the midst of a terrible recession. Flashy condo projects are going up all over the downtown area, which is big because having people living downtown is a pre-cursor to getting a cultural rennaisance going. The Cultureshock Project people are actively working towards bringing new activities and events to town. The Farmer's Market continues to grow. Etc. Etc.
Yes, Salem is lackluster in many ways, but it doesn't have to be, and many folks are working to change that.

Slacker, good points. There are reasons for optimism about Salem. I need to keep that in mind. It's just frustrating to see Salem's slow progress. Such as...

I was involved with the Fairview redevelopment (into a sustainable community) effort early on. This had, and still has, the potential to be a very cool mixed use project. But it has slowed to a crawl, with Pringle Creek Community the only visible development on the Fairview site right now.

Hopefully that will change as the economy perks up. I still think there is a strong market for close-in sustainable living in a creative community. Living in a downtown Salem condo doesn't appeal to me and my wife, but I could see us living in a Sustainable Fairview home one day if the project becomes what it was planned to be.

I agree 100%.

Flashy condo projects are going up all over the downtown area, which is big because having people living downtown is a pre-cursor to getting a cultural rennaisance going.

Wasn't it those "flashy condo" residents who got The Space shut down after 10 p.m.?

If you have a facebook account you should really check this fan page out:


Things are afoot at the Circle K!

We don't need anymore restaurants, we need more things to do in Salem besides eating. The downtown area needs to be more fun! I went through the Salem Center yesterday, counting all the empty stores, I counted 10. It might not seem like a lot compared to the LLoyd Center but think about it. How many other stores can you think of in the Salem Center other than Nordstrom and Khols? Salem does suck!

Funny. I don't think Salem sucks at all.

Sean, congratulations on having such a positive attitude wherever you live, which I assume isn't Salem.

It depends on your lifestyle, I lived in the Portland area and felt refreshed to move to a smaller city. I live in SW Salem which is an arguably nicer area than the industrial areas you comment on. The slower pace with room to breathe, not getting shoved around, stuck in excessive traffic, etc is a relief. So Salem sucks to you, but not everyone. Portland sucks to some too. In fact, its easy to be fooled by its charming daytime facade until you get tired of hearing about a new gang shooting every night, not being able to walk down the street at night with out hundreds of homeless people lying in door stoops, having your car vandalized on the street of a "safe" neighborhood etc. Honestly, there are ups and downs to every city, and you are less likely to see the downs if you dont actually live there.

Johnatha, excellent points. I agree -- Portland probably is a lot nicer place to visit than to live in full-time. My wife and I find a lot to like about Salem. Heck, I wouldn't have lived here for 34 years if Salem wasn't as pleasant as it is.

And yet... (there's always an "and yet") there's a lot of room for improvement. Salem can keep it's small'ish town feel and still be more vibrant, creative, interesting, entertaining. So let's keep the good and make Salem even better.

hi there, this was written in 2010 so it's nearly 3 years later, has anything changed?

Rachel, sadly, not much.

But we now have a Trader Joes! That makes me feel a bit better about Salem. I've gotten hooked on quite a few TJ products, including the cheap bag of airpopped popcorn that has become my new late night snack of choice, and the $2.49 Merlot that has become my usual evening red wine choice.

Otherwise, re-development of the riverfront area is going extremely slowly, with regular apartments now being planned rather than a vibrant mixed use area. Ditto with the Sustainable Fairview property, which now is on track to be boringly non-sustainable.

But I still enjoy living here. As I frequently say, "It's great to be able to usually park for free almost right in front of where you want to go downtown. (Because so few people go to downtown.)"

It is the energy that SUCKS in Salem Oregon, a lack of critical thinking on how to really renovate a town, a lack of interest from outside of the town, and a very small pond of individuals that want complete control over how the town progresses. Salem Oregon is miserable. I'm all for the renovations going on in downtown Salem, but once again the thinking doesn't make sense. The Pearl District before its renovation was a run down district of hodge podge artists that garnered a lot of outside interest much of which has moved to NE Portland since the renovation. It seems Salem should want to garner interest in downtown by incorporating diverse voices in some sort of creative dialog. But no, Salem wants to skip step A and jump to being the Pearl District. The first step in becoming the Pearl District is in garnishing outside interest with some sort of art scene that incorporates diverse views. I'm seeing it a little bit. I'm going to try to get involved..but once again I'll probably run into Salem's clickish behavior that does more to limit the growth of this town then the prison system.

One other thing Salem Oregon could never have a Bridgeport Village. The reason Bridgeport Village exists is because of the Portland Business Community that has a team of second generation entrepreneurs that have local family ties going back a generation. Bridgeport Village owes its success to businesses that have flourished in downtown Portland and are now trying to find a more accessible location for wealthy individuals. Bridgeport Village is a mecca of internal and external financial resources that took decades to create. Salem's best hope is to review the history of the Pearl District and start at point A. I'm thinking the 80's when it was a group of shops with art exhibits from local grass roots artists that garnished state interest by the amount of outside interests.

David, thanks for the thoughtful comments. You made me think differently about Salem and what needs to happen here if our coolness factor is going to get closer to Portland's.

Makes sense. Throwing some mixed-use makeup over the uncreative face of Salem isn't going to produce something as beautiful as the Pearl District or Bridgeport Village. You've got to have the basic features present; then they can be made more attractive and striking.

Actually I kind of agreed with you, until I realized that Salem sucks because of what you just wrote. You would rather spend your money in Portland then Salem. Which will continue the cycle of Salem not having any stores etc. Salem sucks because locals do not invest in their own stores and do not allow existing stores to develop or grow.

Sometimes our family just wants to have a good time... no strings attached... no sense of personal obligation to support Salem business with the hope that things will get better one day. Portland provides that. Things there just seem to work. Adventure and fun just happen. You don't need to work at it.

I hate Salem, it's a snare. Where happiness goes to die. I've lived here all my life mainly in the SE and SW area but I digress. When a park is nick name "the can" by local high schoolers, bums, and any degenerate drug users who festers the place. In my current resident there is a large increase of shots being discharged, car thief , break ins, frequent relocating of junkies from north Salem. These quandaries has lead a disdain impression of Salem. Twice I've been attacked for no reason, by the same person of course since odd enough it's a smaller town. I hope to relocate out of this town and never return. I hope whom claims this town as their paradise shall never meet me in person. I will probably murder them if they say the phrase " god isn't Salem wound earful?". I hate this malformed, degenerate infested, junky tolerate qualm, depressing meth fuel city. I hope you continue to live here, however the surrounding area of croisan creek and the near rolling cascade foot hills are excellent in most beautiful nature scape in Oregon to my opinion. I hope my thoughts have been conveyed and articulated in vividly clearly.

Thanks for this....I am also a vegetarian, hippie, aspiring Prius driver, and visiting Salem on the heels of a Portland trip. I wondered to myself if it was just me, or if this place was markedly different. Your post has helped save me some time writing and thinking in a coffee shop with rubbery crepes and no seating, but not in a cool way. I will dust myself off and drive to Portland.

try living in imperial Beach San Diego, then complain.aha

Hey--five years later, is your take on Salem better, worse,mor same? I'm considering a move...

Lived in Salem for 6+ years now. Still like it here.

I can afford a nice house in Salem close enough to ride my bicycle to work, I could not do either in Portland.

Salem does have a pension for being a gaslighting, backstabbing kind of society. I have witnessed more time being spent profiling and bullying people, than time spent improving the area's livability. People in Salem, love to harm people in Salem. I have lived in Salem all my life, and yes, it does really have an evil side to it. Leave? I have, several times, but inherited property so here I am...again. But not for long. I will leave with money, education and up yours Salem very soon. When the big one hits, I hope Salem is leveled.

Forgot to mention. Normally colleges and Universities give the town a unique edge, but Willamette U has a stick up their butt. No sense of community and culture coming even from one of their farts.

AND, don't hire an attorney in Salem. They are literally all the losers and lower GPA from Willamette U who cannot find jobs anywhere in the world. We are overrun with starving and hence unethical attorney's - some who repeatedly loose their licenses but once gaining the license back, continue services right in Salem - bad reputation and all!
Then there are places like LifeSource who allow employees to bully and harass their customers. Just try to find their name listed in Oregon's Reg. of businesses, or their EIN, or owners name. It is "hidden" under another assumed business name and identity, hence why it is so much fun for their employees to harm folks. Welcome to Salem's evil side. They don't have to be held accountable. Don't move to Salem unless you love harming folks. You will fit right in then.

Still sucks compared to where I use to live, Pasadena Ca.
What's wrong with the donuts here? Where is a winchells? The donuts here are expired cardboard. It's like this place is still in the dark ages.

Moved to Salem 8 months ago knowing it wouldn't be as nice as other places in the valley, but lured by more affordable prices for a first time home buyer. I didn't realize quite how much it sucks. There's a reason most none of my coworkers live in town. Going to sell. The higher prices and commute times are worth leaving the Salem malaise.

The Portland of the 90's is similar to the San Francisco of the 60's—it only comes around once in a lifetime for development and then moves on. The PORTLAND of the 90's felt like a UTOPIA OF DIVERSITY. The variety of FOOD was amazing. I'm really big on MEDITERRANEAN, TURKISH, and Indian foods. But, that PORTLAND DOESN'T EXIST ANYMORE—it disappeared with CURT COBAIN and FRASIER. From what I hear PORTLAND IS THE NEW SEATTLE. With that said, I think SALEM HAS IMPROVED REMARKABLY. In hindsight, I think Oregon's overall problem in the internet AGE was following what I CALL the WEST COAST "STAR CITY SYSTEM" that doesn't make any sense with a RECESSION TECHNOLOGY BROUGHT ON. I'm not moving yet—but, I have a keen interest in the DEVELOPMENT of IOWA—which seems more like it could offer a NEW PORTLAND in the FUTURE with its constellation of Salem Sized Towns where none take STAR CITY STATUS—IOWA almost resembles the architecture of the INTERNET and has the RENEWABLE SPIRIT that OREGONIANS PIONEERED.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Strange Up Salem

Welcome to HinesSight

  • Salem Political Snark
    My local political rants are now made on this badass blog. Check it out. Dirty politics, outrageous actions, sleaze, backroom deals — we’re on it. 

  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • Church of the Churchless
    Visit my other weblog, Church of the Churchless, where the gospel of spiritual independence is preached.

  • Welcome to HinesSight. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.