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.
Our table at Marco Polo was on the second floor of the building in the middle of the photo on the right, just past the greenery below the "Trade" [street].
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.
Don't forget that the Salem Revised Code is currently written to discourage food carts. Food carts have to be spaced 500 feet apart and have to be moved every six months. This makes food court "pods" like Portland has impossible here. Councilor Dickey is trying to change this and has asked for a staff study. Mayor Petersen is opposed to it, fearing harm to established restaurants. She voted against having the staff even study it. But, fortunately, she was in the minority and we should get some kind of report from the staff in the near future.
Posted by: Jim Scheppke | January 05, 2014 at 09:13 PM
Jim, gosh, last I looked Portland is known for its vibrant restaurant scene and also for its vibrant food cart scene.
Restaurants could use food carts as an appetizer, so to speak, for their sit down location. Give 'em a taste; hopefully they'll come back for a full meal deal.
The Mayor needs to enter the 21st century. Or become a health-minded vegetarian, like my wife and I are. Salem has a few decent vegetarian restaurants with a few creative dishes.
But a blossoming food cart scene would multiply the creative possibilities, particularly in the ethnic and veggie cuisine area. I often am downtown, hungry, and can't think of a quick and easy way to get the sort of healthy vegetarian food I like to eat.
I don't want to go into a restaurant. I want to go up to a window, order, get my food promptly, and eat it. Food carts near downtown would be great.
Posted by: Brian Hines | January 05, 2014 at 10:06 PM
I agree that a food cart area is what Salem is needing. Eugene and Corvallis are more cart friendly then us at the moment. How great would it be to have a dedicated food pod where people can enjoy the street food scene and hang out. The extra foot traffic would definitely help the downtown establishments as well.
Posted by: Ally | January 05, 2014 at 11:04 PM
There used to be two restaurants in the Civic Center. One was actually under the covered area and the other in the Library near the Peace Plaza. I think there is only a coffee shop there now.
With a few food carts and if they encouraged the restaurants to come back there would be a reason to go to that location. Connecting it with walking paths and/or bikes paths would also make sense.
I suggested at one point that the area near the Carousel should have a series of permanent stalls with water and electricity that vendors could rent. The perfect place would be near the Carousel, Earth Ball, amphitheater area.
Posted by: Susann Kaltwasser | January 06, 2014 at 01:06 AM
OK, so let's kill off a flock of birds with one stone, so to speak.
Don't 'build-new" for the police and city council.
Give Mountain West a way out re: Boise Cascade property.
Address the Boise development issues re: railroad tracks / crossing / sky bridge.
Save Mirror Pond.
Add long overdue creek pathways.
1. City of Salem comes to a deal with Mountain West to purchase or land-swap (or, if $$ isn't right, pull an eminent domain play) all the Boise property.
2. City of Salem comes up with plans to take the existing Boise building and retrofit for Police (plenty of parking where the gravel piles are now) with a sky bridge over to the existing city complex.
2.a City of Salem continues to live in complex by updating and earthquake retrofit.
3. On West side of tracks, give the land to Riverside Park for additional space/events (did someone say Food Cart?).
4. (speculation on my part) There must be some sort of railroad bridge over the creek spillway that runs under the Boise buildings now so that the water can get to the river. Reinforce that and provide a pathway connected to the upcoming bridge to Minto-Brown to the west, and Mirror Pond to the east.
5. Mountain West wins; City of Salem wins; best of all, citizens of Salem win.
6. My dreams start to come true: a system of walk/bike paths in Salem begins to materialize.
Posted by: Lew Hundley | January 06, 2014 at 03:02 PM
Lew, I like your ideas. The City already owns some property behind the furniture store (whose name I'm blanking out on) adjacent to the empty Boise Cascade warehouse.
That warehouse building was proposed to be made into condos and parking. Sure seems like it could be refurbished into a Police Facility. No worries about it being secure. I've heard that the warehouse would be almost impossible to demolish, it is so strongly constructed.
The Pringle Creek multi-use path is key, as you noted. There's been some skepticism about whether it is possible to have the path go under the railroad tracks.
Yes, liability concerns and safety are an issue. But this web page shows paths under RR tracks are possible:
As you said, there's a win-win-win possible here. Just takes some creative thinking and community collaboration to make it happen.
Posted by: Brian Hines | January 06, 2014 at 04:19 PM
There IS a Creek Walk on Pringle Creek from the Slough thru Bush Park. It's the Creek Walk Project. Call me, Ken @ 503-362-0873 or find us on Face book. Let's go Creekwalkin' all spring.
Posted by: Ken Ploeser | July 02, 2018 at 05:59 PM