SALEM - Representatives of several groups interested in improving the look of downtown Salem grabbed their clipboards and took a walk Monday night to see what they're up against.
They'll regroup in a few weeks to share their assessments of the conditions downtown along State, Second and Pershing streets between Lincoln and Ellsworth avenues, using the information they gathered concerning the buildings, aesthetics, housing, parking, traffic volumes and business practices.
"You have to start somewhere," Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Audrey Null said.
Salem Design Review Board Chairman Ginger Grilli (in green) gestures to the brick sidewalk as representatives of several groups begin a tour of downtown Salem Monday night to assess conditions of buildings, aesthetics, parking, business practices, housing and traffic volumes. Other groups represented included the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, City Council, the Salem Preservation Society and the Salem Area Industrial Development Corporation (SAIDC) and Sustainable Opportunity Development Center. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
She explained that the idea was to take a walking tour of downtown to assess its needs for a general improvement plan. The inventory worksheet each person carried touched on several areas, many dealing with how a structure appeared and its overall condition.
Under the area of buildings, they looked at entranceways, expansion capabilities, facades, interiors, lighting, structures and vacancies. Under aesthetics, they looked at architecture, artistic venue, atmosphere, cleanliness, community pride, landscaping, utilities (wires/poles).
Other areas dealt with business practices, such as hours and displays, housing locations and appearances, motor vehicle volume, pedestrian volume and parking. Null said they were looking at signage, the brick sidewalks and their conditions, building conditions and historical aesthetics.
People who participated in the walk-through inventory included representatives of the chamber, Salem City Council, the Salem Preservation Society, the Salem Design Review Board and the Salem Area Industrial Development Corporation (SAIDC) and Sustainable Opportunity Development Center. City Council members present included Dave Nestic, Brian Whitehill, K. Bret Apple and Rick Drummond. City Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst also attended.
Null first talked about the idea of a walking tour a couple of months ago as part of Project Tomorrow, an economic development proposal presented to city council by Larry Kosiba, executive director of the SOD Center, which is an arm of SAIDC.
Kosiba asked for $60,000 for operations for one year to implement the project to prepare for future development, study traffic needs and plan for revitalizing the downtown, along with an additional, optional $40,000 to set aside for possible projects along those lines.
Project Tomorrow would establish a joint partnership between the SOD Center, the city, the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and the community, with the main objective new construction and job growth, with several committees formed for specific areas and one overall committee to oversee everything. Kosiba was one of the people on the tour.
Null said they planned to look at the Salem Area Sustainable Comprehensive Plan completed in 2008 through the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce for guidance. The plan included a section on historic properties for the downtown and other areas of Salem. According to Ginger Grilli, chairman of the Design Review Board, the Salem downtown and South Lincoln Avenue are both established historic districts.
When asked about the role of the property owners, since any improvements to buildings would be up to them, Null said they'll be having some community meetings and the property owners will be included.
"If we don't all work together, it's not going to work," she said.
As for financing for any projects, she noted this was just a starting point to look at what needs to be done. She didn't know what city council was going to want to do.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at email@example.com