With the seeming demise of Mountain West Investment's ill-considered Pringle Square plans, there is a fresh opportunity to make this downtown riverfront area into a place that will elicit a Wow! rather than ho-hum from Salem visitors and residents.
Here's a letter that Jack Bushek, a long-time West Salem resident, sent to me. He has shared it with Salem Weekly, the Statesman Journal, Salem City Council, Mayor, and others. Hopefully it will get the attention that it deserves.
I like Jack's ideas. They fit with the basic vision of the 2006 Urban Land Institute report that analyzed the best uses for the old Boise Cascade property.
Dear Friends and fellow Citizens,
We now have an opportunity to get it right--about the Boise-Cascade property development--with a plan that would benefit all Citizens.
What would really enhance this property and make it a centerpiece for downtown activity would be to expand our treasured Riverfront Park. And there is a natural and simple boundary for this: (Look at a map or aerial view)-- the Railroad!
The city needs to take the land west of the Railroad--condemn it if necessary. (We weren't afraid to do that under more dubious circumstances in regard to Straub Middle School). This land would greatly enhance Riverfront Park. And we could add a little more parking as well as plenty of Park!
Then a wide walkway East of the Railroad, streetscaped like Twelfth St. going from Commercial and Front Sts. (to connect the Conference Center area) to Pringle Creek, where I envision the "crossing" of the Railroad via a wide Pedestrian tunnel.
Connect this tunnel with an epic Esplanade or Promenade along the Creek on both sides, a really spacious area featuring the natural habitat and the salmon of the Creek, landscaping, water features, fountains, benches, two or three decorative bridges, sculptures, places to view the salmon runs, and classy street lighting--lots of open space and all for pedestrians. (Possibly a lot wider in the middle than at each end.)
Lining this area on both sides of the Creek, would be restaurants with outdoor seating, and shops and businesses, and other attractions for us locals and tourists alike-- along with tourist information. A miniature San Antonio style Riverwalk, but still awesome--wide tunnel access to Riverfront Park and the Bridge to Minto Island on one end, and (also with a wide tunnel access) the City Hall Park, Peace Plaza, and Commercial St. at the other end.
There would still be room for other commercial development, smaller scale but still significant Condominium and Apartment Complexes (one could always build one or two stories higher than was previously thought), both East of the Railroad, and South of Pringle Creek. The restaurants, shops, and businesses along the Esplanade could be the first floors of condos and apartments or offices. The important feature is plenty of open space.
And parking with access ONLY from East of the Railroad (only from Front St. or Commercial St,) thus keeping the traffic and safety problems of the Park parking area at a minimum, and eliminating the need for another Railroad crossing.
It would be really wonderful to have as a focal point of the Esplanade, something to represent Salem as the City of Peace. It could serve as a site for memorials of all kinds, by individuals and various and diverse groups in our community. This could range from a small monument to something that could also serve as the City's symbol. Could we dare to envision a PeaceTower--such as a replica of the Old City Hall tower!?
It seems to me that this Plan enhances EVERYONE'S interests in this property---and the benefits to all Citizens and our children will be many and ongoing.
Here's to Salem, City of Peace! -- and a world-class Capital!