Yesterday Michael Davis (executive editor of the Statesman Journal) called for Salemians to support his Big Idea: making Salem, Oregon a mecca for scholastic music.
Download Lets make Salem a music mecca
I readily admit to being underwhelmed.
Not because it's a bad idea to build on Salem's high-quality high school music scene and have some sort of nationally recognized festival, or whatever, celebrating all things scholastic music'ish.
Because I wanted something grander and Wow! inducing after reading Davis' first paragraphs, where he talked about newspaper crusades for noble causes.
Since his opinion piece has gotten just two comments in two days, only one of which is clearly in favor of the idea, it appears that most Salem-area residents share my nice idea, but yawn... reaction to his vision.
Here's my alternative: Let's make downtown Salem a visitor mecca.
I'd jump right on board any ship that starts sailing in that direction.
Ever since I moved here in 1977, people have been talking about how much potential downtown has. Yet somehow the Salem Downtown HIstoric District, and associated adjacent areas, never gets over the hurdle that separates "nice place" from "great place."
So how about it, Statesman Journal? Are you willing to support a multi-year, multi-pronged effort to make downtown Salem a much more vibrant, prosperous, and people-attracting place?
Off the top of my head, just uphill from my bald spot, I'll share some ideas about what would help to make downtown a visitor mecca. For sure, others would have additional and better ideas.
(1) Streetscape away. Plans already have been roughed out to make downtown much more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Reducing the number of lanes on some streets would make the Historic District vibe way more appealing for visitors. (See here and here.)
(2) Establish a genuine active downtown association. It's bizarre that Linda Norris, the City Manager, abolished the downtown association so she could rule over a new version herself and decide how funds provided by businesses are spent. This dictatorial action needs to be undone. Downtown businesses should take the lead in deciding how the area evolves.
(3) Change the food cart rules. The current city code makes it impossible for Salem food carts to thrive. A place in or near downtown needs to become a permanent food cart haven. Naysayers who worry about the effect on downtown eateries need only look at how Portland restaurants are faring after a food cart explosion.
(4) Allow brew pubs downtown. I can't understand why City of Salem officials haven't allowed brew pubs in the downtown area. This seems like a no-brainer. They're thriving in other parts of Salem. Calling them an "industrial" use that doesn't belong in the urban core is ridiculous.
(5) Have a Salem Sunday Streets event every month. Last year some downtown streets were closed off to cars, freeing them for walkers, bicyclists, and other forms of alternative transportation. Like a longboard land paddler, moi. The event was a lot of fun; great way to draw people downtown and show them what a city is like nearly carless.
(6) Build on the Minto Brown pedestrian bridge. This bridge is going to be a winner. It's one of the best things to happen to the downtown area in a long time. Downtown groups (see 2 above) need to build on this, as does the Boise Cascade redevelopment. Rethink the nursing home notion, Mountain West Investment. Is this really the best use for a prime riverfront lot so close to downtown?
(7) Ditch the Third Bridge planning. The City of Salem needs to walk away from its commitment to spending $400 million or more on an unneeded, unwanted, and unpaid-for Third Bridge. Taxpayer funds can be spent much more wisely elsewhere. This bridge would drive people away from downtown. Literally.
(8) Make sure no more downtown trees are removed for no good reason. Salem's tree ordinance needs to be revised to assure that never again will political machinations substitute for expert arborist advice when it comes to cutting down large beautiful downtown trees.