Downtown plans to be featured on cable tonight

Cable television viewers in Salem can learn all about the plans for the Salem Downtown Revitalization Technical Advisory Committee at 6 tonight and then see city council in action at 7.

People who want to see the action in person can just show up at Salem City Hall council chambers at the appointed times, first for the Committee of the Whole meeting when downtown building owner Scott Cahill gives his presentation for the TAC, then for the Salem City Council meeting.

Either way, more than four months worth of work to look at ways to revitalize and reinvigorate downtown Salem will be reported, along with recommendations and requests for city council to consider.

Cahill started the effort last fall and gathered other building owners, business owners, business professionals and volunteers to study the problem, with subcommittees formed to focus on key areas.

According to an overview of the project, the Proportion Subcommittee looked at the proportion of green space, parking, residences and commercial space in the downtown area.

The Standards Subcommittee looked at the minimum standards for occupancy of the buildings, with goals to have all floors of buildings occupied and in use.

The Fiscal Subcommittee studied the fiscal needs of revitalization and the Building Evaluation Subcommittee looked at grading buildings for their current structural condition and their historical and architectural significance.

Cahill said previously the city will be asked to develop a citywide building code, form a building inspection department with a local inspector so approvals for renovations can be handled locally instead of through the state, take action against nuisance buildings and raze them if necessary and take on some costs through the issuance of bonds or loans so a proposed non-profit entity can hire professionals in real estate/leasing and construction to draw potential businesses into the downtown area.

Cahill wants people to hear the TAC presentation. Members of the TAC have been placing signs around the downtown area which say Save Downtown Salem in an effort to promote what they’re trying to do. They held meetings to secure public comment about their proposals.

In the beginning, he said the whole idea was to bring back the downtown to the way it used to be years ago, as a destination with buildings in full use. One of the ideas is to for a business incubator for specialty retail stores to draw people to the area, catered to artisans for candles, blacksmithing, glass blowing or pottery making.

The plan is to assist property owners in getting their buildings renovated for occupancy, but the renovations will be driven by the property owners. The occupancy rate of downtown buildings is currently about 15 percent, but the occupancy rate is expected to increase to over 50 percent by the summer of 2014 after revitalization, with a target of 70 percent by 2015.

Cahill owns buildings himself in the downtown area and plans on renovating them.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at