I've said it before, and I want to say it again:
We've got to get over a reluctance to talk honestly about downtown's homeless problem. It's possible to both (1) feel compassion toward homeless people and (2) feel bad about how homeless people are making downtown Salem less pleasant for visitors, residents, and business owners.
Yesterday Carole Smith, who lives downtown and owns property there, sent me the message I've shared below.
In an email to the Salem City Council, Smith describes how a prospective tenant backed out of signing a lease because of the homeless problem; how a friend views downtown; and shares her view that downtown businesses are suffering due to a lack of attention to homelessness by city officials.
Then Smith shares a response she got from City Manager Powers. No member of the City Council replied to her email message. Lastly, you can read Smith's reply to Powers. Here's her message:
On May 17, 2019, at 2:52 PM, Steve Powers <[email protected]> wrote:Ms. Smith,Thank you for contacting the City with your concerns regarding the state of the downtown. Any incident that causes someone concern is unfortunate. The Salem Police Downtown Enforcement Team is dedicated to keeping the downtown area safe. The Urban Renewal Agency provides grants to downtown property owners for security and safety improvements. The City is continuing partnerships to help and house the homeless.Please be assured the City is committed to a vibrant, growing downtown. New businesses continue to come downtown. Businesses are leaving spaces to expand and grow into larger spaces downtown rather than choosing to leave downtown. Existing businesses are opening new businesses and investing even more in our downtown. Downtown is attracting major investment from large developers from outside the city. There are many recent examples of businesses and property owners investing in the downtown.o Two new women’s clothing boutiques have opened. One is on Center Street between Liberty and Commercial, and the other is on Liberty Street in the Metropolitan Building. The latter opened just in the last few months.o The Gray Building (former Brick restaurant) – The entire second story, previously undeveloped and vacant, has been leased with multiple (3-4) new business. Bigwig donuts has opened on the first floor in a portion of the former Brick space.o This week the Noble Wave brewpub is opening on Liberty in the Reed Opera House taking the space that Brown’s Towne Lounge vacated when they moved further down the street to expand.o Perle Holistic Skincare opened in a ground-floor space at 170 Liberty St.o Issacs and Valley Dance Academy moved into downtown in the last year at Commercial and Court.o 195 Commercial Street was purchased by LMC Construction and Sturgeon Development Partners for the development of a $43 million dollar, 123 room hotel and they are preparing for design review by Historic Landmarks Commission.o 440 State Street is nearing completion of its buildout and will operate multiple eateries similar to the Pine Street Market in Old Town in Portland.o Koz Development is going through land use approval to develop 146 residential units at the corner of Commercial and State.o Rudy’s has leased the space on the corner of Chemeketa and Commercial and will be opening another business in this location.o The site where the former Wells Fargo building was demolished is in due diligence for a purchase and a pre-application meeting has been held for a potential mixed use project with retail and housing.o The Nordstrom’s building is under contract and in its due diligence phase. This is the second prospective buyer for this property, which has been under contract for about 9 out of the 12 months it has been on the market for sale.o The tanning salon in Liberty Plaza has moved to another location downtown. They did not leave downtown.Most of these new businesses have been the beneficiaries of new construction or renovations that have received support from the Riverfront-Downtown URA grant program.Thank you for your interest and contributions to a prosperous downtown.