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August 14, 2013


"Huh? An opportunity to build a couple of apartment buildings and a medical rehab facility don't come often? That opportunity comes all the time. What won't come often, and in fact won't ever come again, is the opportunity to develop Salem's one and only downtown riverfront area in a full-glass way."

Yes, exactly.

Small ball wins games and championships. Long ball results in strikeouts, fly outs, and losses.

A Man from Salem, here's the problem with your analogy:

In baseball, three singles can produce a run by advancing a runner around. In commercial or residential development, this can't happen. Each project is almost entirely distinct.

Build a mediocre development here. Then build another mediocre development there. And then, another mediocre development over there.

Now you've got three mediocre developments. Three singles. No run scored.

This is the problem with Salem: small ball thinking. What we end up with is a city that isn't a "champion," as you said in your comment. If we were, businesses and people would be flocking here, drawn by our outstanding livability and dynamism.

Subscribe to the Oregonian, like I do. Along with the Statesman Journal. Compare what is happening in the Portland area with what is happening in the Salem area. We are moribund, lackluster, in comparison.

Sure, there are good reasons for this. Excuses can be given for why Salem lags and Portland leads. But I say that some of the reason is a lack of imagination, creativity, and courage among Salem's "business class."

Like Withnell and Tokarski, they are content with doing something that has been done before. Wow. Rental apartments and a medical rehab facility on the riverfront. And Tokarski wants an (illegal) tax break even to do the rehab facility.

So much for daring independent capitalism.

I agree with you and B on B. But both those critiques fail to acknowledge that the resistance to the development is not a call for the highest quality urbanism we can get on our waterfront. Like you, when I am with my kids at the Carousel, I gaze down the path toward the acid ball and pine for an esplanade of shops and street cafes where I can watch the sunset and people watch while my kids enjoy the playground.

Instead the criticism is a collection of the most tired NIMBY cliches, as reflected in this recent opinion:


1. There isn't enough parking! The author claims that there NEVER is enough parking! It is far more likely that, if given the opportunity, park users will spill into the apartment parking lot and not vice versa.

2. Traffic! The way State St. is built now it can easily handle 15,000 cars per day but only sees about 3000 cars per day west of Liberty. The author completely ignores that many of the largest employers (State, Salem Health, Willamette U., SAIF) will be an easy and pleasant walk away.

3. Too tall! You can't see the acid ball from Commercial! As if drivers need any more distractions on this infamous traffic sewer.

4. Residents will use the park! I would like to see more integration with the park. But critics say the barriers are not rigid enough to prevent "residents from using it for BBQs". Ya know, stuff that makes living near a park attractive.

So while I agree with your criticism, I think this development, as proposed, is a good fit for Salem right now given the anti-urban NIMBYism that is currently driving the debate. Salem is not ready for a Pearl District, but this is a solid step in that direction.

(I also put most of this in a comment on the Breakfast on Bikes blog.)

I'm not so interested in the "cool" factor in regard to this development. I'm more interested in places for people to live within bike/walk distance of downtown businesses, government offices and Willamette Universsity. There is plenty of vacant commercial space downtown where cool, or merely useful, things can go.

Funny that Curt used the phrase "esplanade of shops and street cafes." The Esplanade in Boston is a park along the Charles River. It truly is Boston's back yard, constantly filled with people walking, jogging, biking, playing ball or tennis, playing in the playground, going to concerts and other events at the Hatch Shell, hanging out, watching the sunset. The Esplanade connects to a linear bike path that goes upriver for miles into the suburbs, occasionally opening out into larger spaces for playgrounds, picnic areas and the like. (Same thing on the Cambridge side of the river.)

There is NO commercial activity except for a hot dog stand next to the Hatch Shell, a small ride in a Venice style gondola operation, and a canoe and kayak rental outfit. Local colleges, private clubs and community organizations have boathouses scattered along the banks for their sailing and rowing teams. That's it. For miles and miles.

The Boston Waterfront, along the harbor, is a whole other thing. It has always been highly developed, but now that there is very little shipping in or out of Boston, the old brick and stone warehouses on the wharves have been converted into million dollar condos and offices, with a yacht club or two. Parts of the waterfront are overrun with tourists visiting the aquarium, taking harbor cruises, and looking for the best clam chowder.

To my mind Salem doesn't need gentrification. Salem needs places to live and work and play - connected by safe ways to walk and bike and a decent bus system.

(my new blog: Like a Cat With Nine Lives at

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