Tear it down! Aside from one building, that's what City of Salem and state government officials are moving toward on the historic North Campus of the Oregon State Hospital.
But Traverse City, Michigan has shown there's another way.
Salem, Oregon doesn't need to follow the disturbing path I talked about in yesterday's blog post, "North Campus of Salem's State Hospital slated for demolition."
I learned about the way-cool redevelopment of the Traverse City State Hospital into The Village at Grand Traverse Commons via some comments on a Salem Community Vision Facebook post about the North Campus demolition plan.
Sure, its a different town, different state hospital, different people involved.
But spending some time this morning learning about how equally, if not more, decrepit hospital buildings were saved from the wrecking ball offers some important lessons for Salem. (The photo above is the signature hospital structure that has been renovated by the developer of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.)
I watched a four minute video about the redevelopment. Very instructive. Made me wish we could clone Ray Minervini of The Minerveni Group and bring him to Salem.
In the video, Minervini talks about going to Italy and seeing beautiful historic buildings that are many hundreds of years old still very much in use. He also speaks of the necessity of reinventing or repurposing old buildings, in much the same way as people find new directions for themselves as they age.
The Traverse City State Hospital was slated for demolition, just as ours in Salem is, after the buildings fell into disrepair. Fortunately, Minervini was able to buy the entire property for $1. Then...
After putting in over $60 million, it's now a showpiece for the area. Once it's complete, the owners expect that approximately 1,800 people will live or work there.
Curbed.com's Chris Berger put together a post that shows off what is now swanky, "homes, offices, and independent businesses like a bakery, a cheesecake store, and a wine bar."
And, yeah, the Traverse City State Hospital has a bunch of tunnels connecting various buildings, just like the old Salem State Hospital does.
I was impressed to hear Ray Minervini say that the structures he bought for $1 (along with the land) were designed to last for 500 years. It bothered him to see them torn down after 127 years or so.
Now, like I said, the situation here in Salem is different from Traverse City's. But it's crazy to think that we can't learn from how an old rundown state hospital in Michigan was renovated into a creative, attractive, vibrant mixed-use development -- apparently without demolishing any buildings.
The property was sold for nothing (OK, one dollar) to someone who made a commitment to put his money, and that of other investors, into a redevelopment that would make the community proud.
So far, Salem city officials are heading down a less appealing path: tear everything down except for one historic building; put millions (likely) of public dollars into the demolition, tree removals, and other work needed to make the property "shovel ready"; and then try to find a developer who will construct something or other on the bare land.
I'm tired of Salem being content with something or other.
We've got a depressing "anything is better than what we have now" mentality among both local elected officials and City of Salem leaders like the mayor and city manager. Traverse City made their old state hospital into an economic powerhouse and a major attraction for visitors.
A bunch of modern apartments, row houses, condos, and assisted living homes?
Come on, Salem, we can do a lot better. Many other cities have been there and done that. Let's aspire to something grander, like Traverse City did.