Council members to discuss plan to revitalize Salem’s downtown

SALEM – City Council’s Committee of the Whole, which includes all seven council members, will begin discussions regarding the Downtown Salem Technical Advisory Committee findings tonight at 7 in council chambers.

The report was presented during the last Committee of the Whole meeting last month by Scott Cahill, a downtown building owner who spearheaded efforts to come up with a plan for revitalizing the downtown. According to the report, about 100 people came together for the task which began last fall.

In an email to fellow council members, Councilman Dave Nestic, who chairs the Committee of the Whole, said he won’t be asking for presentations on the plan, but will ask Cahill and his wife, Lisa, to be present to answer any questions.

He also said he’s asked Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Audrey Null to attend to talk about existing chamber committees which could have an impact on implementation activities for the TAC plan.

Members of the Salem Area Industrial Development Center known as SAIDC also may attend and could address SAIDC’s involvement or the involvement of the Community Improvement Corporation.

Nestic noted that the Chamber organized a walking tour of downtown Salem last summer and included members of city council and the administration to look at the conditions of downtown and the buildings in downtown. He said in his email that the Cahills and the TAC effort “elevated the discussion and presented potential action items and structure.”

Plans call for the Committee of the Whole to review the reports and activities and discuss the next steps.

The TAC proposal asked council to take several actions related to buildings, parking, traffic, funding, Internet access and business development for the downtown. The report included the TAC findings, recommendations, cost projections and benefits, statistics related to crime, income, transportation and poverty in Salem and action items for the city of Salem to consider. A copy of the report is available on the Salem Downtown TAC Facebook page.

Cahill said earlier this week that what he wants is for council and all the players to look at the plan, suggest changes and move forward with it.

“I want everybody involved,” he said, including business and building owners.

Cahill wanted to clarify a couple of key points regarding the funding for the proposal, most especially the fact that any money raised through a proposed tax would not be used to renovate any buildings. Any renovations to buildings would be shouldered by the building owners.

He said that’s been a big misconception out there. Any money paid by citizens would go to management and parking and to remove the buildings falling down on the streets.

As for a tax, he said he originally described it as $50 per resident for two years, but what he meant to say was an amount of money equal to $50 per person for two years. The way to do it would be up to the city, but his suggestion was to do it as a special income tax that would be decided by council and go before the voters.

Cahill said he had no problem with people having an argument with the document, but he urged anyone with concerns after studying the document to let themselves be heard. He said he heard one person was claiming they planned to close Broadway and that’s not the case in any way, shape or form.

He said he thinks everyone agrees something needs to be done. He said if all the players can come together in the same boat, they can save the city.

“If we fail, we are doomed,” he said.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at