There's a lot to like about the planned Pringle Square development in downtown Salem (Oregon) near the riverfront. Getting rid of the Boise Cascade ruins and putting in apartments... great.
Yes, I've been critical of how the Mountain West Investment company has backed off from an initial vision of a cool mixed use development that would bring some much-needed energy and excitement to Salem's riverfront.
But at least the Pringle Square website speaks of "ground level cafés and retail in a riverfront setting." Hey, for a coffee addict like me, that's something. And the design looks like it has progressed from what, a year ago, I called:
Rental apartments. Unbeautifully stacked in what reminds me and my wife of (1) North Korean housing, (2) Chicago "projects," or (3) a poorly designed airline terminal.
What irks me the most at the moment is the horrible plan to make a Marquis Post-Acute Rehabilitation Facility, otherwise known as a "nursing home," part of the riverfront development.
That's bad enough. A nursing home doesn't belong on the downtown riverfront next to the Carousel. A nursing home can go anywhere. Putting a short-term rehab facility at this location is an absurd idea.
A City of Salem staff report by Glenn Gross, the Urban Planning Administrator, made clear that the proposed rehab facility doesn't mesh with the uses allowed in the South Waterfront Mixed-Use Zone. So that should be enough to squash the idea.
Download Marquis memo 1
However, the Nursing Home by the Carousel plan stumbles on.
Amazingly, the developers are even asking for the City of Salem to declare that this Post-Acute Rehab Facility, staffed by nurses and serving short-term patients, get a tax incentive intended to support "multi-unit housing in the core areas of Oregon's urban centers."
Not surprising, since Marquis' contention that nursing home rooms qualify as "multi-unit housing" is comical. It would have been fitting for Wales' memo to feature smiley-faces scattered throughout the analysis to show how bizarre the request was.
I recall that this tax-incentive request was on the last City Council agenda, but was pulled before the meeting. My suspicion is that Marquis and Mountain West wanted more time to lobby for the apparently illegal tax incentive.
What are the chances that the Mayor and city councillors will ignore facts, the law, and staff recommendations that a nursing home (1) doesn't mesh with zoning for the area, and (2) doesn't qualify for a "multi-unit housing" tax incentive?
Sadly, greater than a reasonable person would expect. This should be a slam-dunk Marquis rehab facility denial. But the City of Salem has been making some unreasonable decisions lately.
Allowing five healthy large downtown trees to be cut down by US Bank for no good reason. Giving the go-ahead to an unneeded, unwanted, and unpaid-for $650 million Third Bridge. Trying to foist parking meters on downtown for spurious reasons without ever talking with small businesses in the area. Attempting to place a regressive streetlight tax on citizens.
Hopefully the Salem City Council will understand that facts and the law trump political pressure from wealthy developers and the Chamber of Commerce. If Marquis gets its way, this will be a clear sign that the City of Salem has stopped serving the public interest and cares only about special interests.