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Downtown Salem Streetscape Project Enticing Images of final design proposals

Yesterday, April 18, 2018, I attended the final Salem Streetscape Project open house. The Walker Macy project consultants, along with City of Salem staff, shared the results of numerous meetings, two previous open houses, and online surveys about how the sidewalks in downtown Salem could be made more attractive and people-friendly.

Scroll down for photos of the boards that were displayed at the open house, along with my commentary under each photo. I'm enthused about the potential of this project, which now is entering a final design phase. Additional feedback will be solicited on the streetscape elements. Then in the fall, the City Council, acting as the Urban Renewal Agency board, will make a final decision on what should be constructed, and when this will happen.

This map shows the location of four streetscape types: Promenade, Civic, Parkway, and Urban -- along with alley entrances. The following images show the basic design elements for each of these types.

These are the basic streetscape elements that will be present throughout the downtown area. They all make good sense. Note that trees will benefit from a considerably larger soil "footprint" which will make them happier and healthier. (I'm a big fan of trees, so I like to imagine them being happy, especially since City officials haven't always given downtown trees the love they deserve.)

Liberty Street is going to be the Promenade part of the downtown streetscape project. The pedestrian zone will add consistency to what now is kind of a walkers jumble, since signboards, tables, and such currently are placed in different parts of the sidewalk. I really like the mid-block gathering spaces, complete with shady trees.

State and Court streets get the Civic design elements. The artistic crosswalks are a nice touch. Here's what the small type at the bottom of the tree image says: "Trees with a broad canopy and seasonal color in bump-outs create a distinctive view corridor between the Capitol Mall and Riverfront Park." Yes! It will take a while for newly planted trees to grow to the sizes shown in the image, but this is a long-term project.

Streets on the outer boundaries of the downtown area get the Parkway treatment. One difference here is the 2' pedestrian zone adjacent to the curb.

The Urban streets get a more basic streetscape treatment. These sidewalks are a bit narrower than the Promenade, Civic, and Parkway sidewalks.

The revamped crossing(s) to Riverfront Park have an appealing Abbey Road feel to them. (For sure, the Beatles would approve of the crossings.) The fine print says that because the Oregon Department of Transportation controls Front Street, ODOT would have to approve design changes,

The most off-putting part of downtown is the freeway'ish three- and four-lane one-way streets, Liberty and Commercial. ideally a lane should be lost from each of the streets, but calming/slowing the flow of traffic via streetscape design elements like these Mid-Block Landscape features is a good second choice. A following image has another view of how using a few parking spaces for tree-filled bulb-outs will benefit downtown.

This is the bottom of the image above. It shows how much better Commercial Street would look with traffic-calming bulb-outs replacing some parking spaces. Note that no lanes of traffic have been lost. The width of the road is simply narrowed, which will reduce traffic speeds and make downtown more pedestrian-friendly. No vehicle has ever shopped at a downtown business. Only people do that, when they have gotten out of their cars. (Or off of a bike, or a bus.)

Parklets are temporary (usually) social spaces in repurposed parking spaces.

Here's examples of parklets, all of which look a heck of lot more inviting than a parking space.

Alley entrances get their own streetscaping.

The new landscaping, lighting, and such at alley entrances would utilize unused street space that now goes to waste. The plantings would be low-maintenance and require little or no water, being mostly (or maybe entirely) native vegetation.

I re-took some photos near the end of the 5:30 to 7:00 pm meeting, after attendees had had more of an opportunity to indicate via stickers how they liked some of the streetscape design elements. A clear majority wanted to reclaim parking spaces for traffic-calming purposes. Only a few people were opposed to this.

Likewise, most people liked the idea of streetscaping alley entrances. I wasn't wild about having alley names embedded in sidewalk pavement, but now that I've had more time to think about this, I can see that it could be a "wayfaring" tool -- if a business uses an alley name to identify their location.

Parklets also got a thumbs-up from most of those who weighed in on them via a sticker. About an equal number liked the idea of temporary versus longer-term parklets, with only one person not wanting any parklets at all.

Lastly, here's a link to an Adobe Spark page I made about the original streetscape concepts that some dedicated Salemians came up with some years ago. Those plans reduced the number of lanes on some downtown streets, which could be a very good thing for the Historic District.

Created By
Brian Hines
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