Over on the Salem Community Vision Facebook page, a great question has been asked:
Members of Salem Community Vision are looking for some positive suggestions on how to make the Civic Center a more vibrant, people centered gathering place.
If you have some suggestions how to make the Peace Plaza better, or the Mirror Pond more inviting, or even how to liven up the interiors of the Center, please post some of your ideas.
SCV thinks that we can enhance what we already have without having to tear down our valuable assets.
This reminded me of a night not long ago, Christmas Eve. My wife and I were eating at the Marco Polo Global Restaurant. Our table overlooked the area that is called Millrace Plaza.
Some Christmas lights shone on the walkway and water. No one was on the plaza. Laurel and I talked some about how Salem should make better use of the creekside areas so close to downtown.
The Civic Center's Mirror Pond is right across the street. I don't recall ever visiting Mirror Pond, though I drive by it often. It is barely visible from Commercial and Liberty streets. Here's a Google Maps image of the area.
Mirror Pond is near the bottom of the middle of the photo, with Pringle Creek flowing above the the pond, past the old large empty Boise Cascade building with the white roof, and then into the Willamette River on the edge of Riverfront Park.
It'd be great to vitalize this area.
Downtown Salem doesn't have many public spaces -- no "squares" where people can gather, people-watch, eat, relax, enjoy a bit of nature. But something needs to draw folks into the Mirror Pond/Millrace Plaza area.
How about... food carts! Plus, better lighting. And that's about how far my great idea goes at the moment.
I don't know how practical this is; exactly where food carts could be located; how easy it is, or could be, to get to Mirror Pond; what sorts of amenities could be added there to make this a place that people would want to visit on a lunch hour or downtown stroll.
For year round use, some shelter against rain and wind would be needed. I picture outdoor tables nestled under some sort of Oregon'ish rustic wood structure.
Creative food cart offerings. Good coffee. Pastries and other snacks. I'd be drawn there. Even in the rain.
There's already a plan to build a path along Pringle Creek through the Boise Cascade property. The original 2009 proposal included the food cart notion.
The 2009 Statesman Journal story describes what was envisioned by Mountain West Investment.
A path winding along the banks of Pringle Creek has long been in the plans for the Boise Cascade site's proposed redevelopment. The path is intended to become a signature feature of the downtown Salem development, as well as a connection to pedestrian and bike trails.
...The path would have a plaza with room for food cart vendors, as well as outdoor seating for a restaurant. It would run under the railroad bridge at the Boise site, as well as under Commercial Street SE, and could become another way to reach Riverfront Park.
Again, remember that what's talked about above is the creekside property just downstream from Mirror Pond.
Why couldn't the Mirror Pond area be a "test case" for the Boise site's eventual redevelopment. See how food carts work upstream of that site.