Here's the considerably delayed second installment of my May 19 blog post about a City Club program regarding progress in redeveloping Salem's downtown area. That post showed slides of the planned conversion of the Truitt Brothers cannery into a vibrant mixed use development.
Now I'll share slides presented by Shelly Ehenger, Urban Development Program Manager for the City of Salem.
Ehenger started off by showing the boundary of the Downtown Urban Renewal Area, where leveraging of property tax assessments can be used to promote improvements. She noted that the cannery isn't part of that area, but there are other ways the City of Salem can help with the redevelopment.
The Holman Riverfront Hotel is a new addition to downtown. The photo on the left is of two happy guests who were among the first to stay at the hotel and said they enjoyed their time in Salem. There's no parking at the hotel, which uses a nearby city parking structure for valet parking.
My daughter's first job while she was in high school was at Nordstrom. I think she just about broke even, since part of her job was to handle women's clothing that was reduced in price and she'd see so many cute items, she couldn't resist using her employee discount to buy them. So when Nordstrom closed, that was a shock, given the pleasant memories I and many others had of the store.
But the location is being used for the Rivenwood apartments, which have some affordable housing along with a rooftop deck. The $25 million project has an impact of 350 jobs, according to Ehenger.
A downtown streetscape program has been in the works for quite a few years. I recall that the initial plans were more dramatic than the relatively small changes to downtown that have been made so far. But Ehenger said this is a multi-year project that won't be complete until 8-10 years from now.
The conversion of several blocks of Court Street has been completed since the City Club presentation. Shifting to a two-way street from a one-way street is intended to make traffic go slower and make people more aware of what's around them by focusing on both sides of the street.
The Union Street bike lane will run from Summer Street to Front Street.
The City of Salem used urban renewal funds to purchase the block that used to hold the Union Gospel Mission and Saffron Supply. Those buildings have been demolished. The city is looking for potential developers for a mixed use development with both market rate and affordable housing. Green building will be encouraged in line with Salem's Climate Action Plan.
The city has also purchased the property outlined in the slide above. It was supposed to be used for a Marquis rehabilitation facility along with some ground floor retail, but Marquis decided that plan wasn't feasible. That's good, since it always seemed crazy to me to have a medical facility on prime property near the riverfront.
In the Q&A session I asked Ehenger why the City of Salem thought it made sense to use public funds to acquire the property as an "opportunity purchase," noting that to me it looked like Marquis got a great opportunity to easily sell their property after they couldn't use it. Why not let Marquis find a buyer for it?
Ehenger didn't directly answer my question. She did say that by buying the property, the city can control to some extent what is built there, which should include housing. I've been critical of how the City of Salem has used urban renewal funds, but I liked how Ehenger conducted herself and had a pleasant conversation with her after the meeting concluded.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see if the city's purchase of the Marquis property ends up with a positive development.