Courthouse Square is a square block disaster in downtown Salem.
The three story building, previously mostly filled with county offices, is completely unusable because of dangerous construction defects. So is the adjoining bus transit mall/underground parking.
Twenty million dollars still is owed on the $34,000,000 project. There's little chance that any more than the $1.8 million received in a settlement with the architects and contractors will be gotten in recompense for the construction screw-ups.
Yet the Marion County commissioners seem to be headed toward throwing lots more taxpayer money down the Courthouse Square rathole. So says the Statesman Journal in a story yesterday.
Officials will review repair proposals for the Courthouse Square office building and bus mall, county officials said Tuesday. A video summary of the “remediation” proposal recommended by an evaluation committee will also be presented.
No decisions have been made about Courthouse Square’s fate, but attempting to fix its structural problems will be the first option considered by its public owners.
... Preliminary estimates for repairing the entire complex have varied wildly. One consultant group put the cost at $53.4 million. Members of a citizen task force suggested a $16 million fix was possible.
I say, echoing Ronald Reagan (sort of), Tear it down, Marion County Board of Commissioners and Salem Area Mass Transit Board of Directors!
So also says every person who responded to a Statesman Journal "What should be done with Courthouse Square?" question.
We posed that question to readers on StatesmanJournal.com because the Marion County Board of Commissioners and Salem Area Mass Transit District Board are preparing to discuss proposals for remediating all or part of the building, parking garage and bus mall.
Readers were unanimous: Tear it down and start over.
A gathering place, or "park," should replace Courthouse Square. There's already a model for this not far away: Portland's highly successful Pioneer Courthouse Square. Geez, we just need to change one word and we've got Salem Courthouse Square.
Tear down the unusable building. Don't fix it.
Make that block into the vibrant center of downtown Salem. Events, rallies, entertainment. Food, coffee, snacks. Benches, water feature, people-watching places. Have some covered areas for when it rains, but leave most of the block open.
The county can continue to rent private office space for the agencies that used to be in the Courthouse Square building. This should cost way less than fixing the unusable current building, which, as noted above, still will take $20 million to pay off even without doing any repairs.
Stop the madness. Stop the massive waste of taxpayer money. Tear down Courthouse Square. Build a Pioneer Square'ish gathering place. This is what the citizens of Salem want.
Question is: Are the county commissioners and mass transit board of directors listening?
Tell them. Public comments about what should be done with Courthouse Square are being solicited by both sets of decision-makers. Don't be shy. Send them an email.
Written comments about proposed repairs for Courthouse Square are also being accepted. The public comment period will remain open until the next scheduled joint meeting of the county and transit district. The date of that meeting has not yet been determined.
Marion County Board of Commissioners, P.O. Box 14500, Salem, OR 97309-5036
Email: [email protected]
Salem Area Mass Transit Board of Directors, 925 Commercial Street SE, Salem, OR 97302
Email: [email protected]