Jan’s Take on Livability

Our downtown core saw a major step forward when ground broke for the Peter Courtney Minto Island Pedestrian Bridge. This project is an example of dedicated individuals, government agencies, and local groups coming together over several years to make vision a reality. This bridge will connect Minto-Brown Island Park with Riverfront Park. Six years ago, Riverfront Park was linked with Wallace Marine Park via the Union Street Railroad Bridge, exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. The two bridges will connect the three major downtown parks, with 20 miles of trails total. I applaud the incredible efforts that are making this project happen for our city.

While single-family, car-dependent subdivisions continue to crop up on the edges of Salem, I am excited to see new residential units opening in the downtown core. An example is the recent renovation of the Roth/McGilchrist Building (Gayle’s Italian Market) to include a dozen apartments—an excellent example of historic preservation. And the most recent development, South Block Apartments, has brought 115 new residential units. Those who know me know that I live in the Grant Neighborhood so I can get to work and downtown businesses without getting in a car. These new residences offer downtown employees the opportunity for a very short commute.

Unfortunately, most---if not all---of these new residences are not affordable for lower-income families and individuals, and the entire city is facing a housing shortage. The Statesman Journal recently reported that the Salem metro area has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the state, with housing prices here jumping 10% from spring to fall 2015. We need to promote affordable housing in the downtown area.

Those of us who live in and near downtown know that people are sleeping outside every night in our own neighborhoods. Salem Weekly reported in September that over 1,600 people are homeless in Marion-Polk county, often entire families. It is time for us to start looking at homelessness as a solvable problem and an intolerable situation. I am encouraged by the work of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force —another example of diverse individuals and agencies coming together to solve an urgent problem in our community.