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Salem moves to buy downtown property

SALEM — City council moved forward with $450,000 in financing to buy a major corner property at State and Lincoln in downtown Salem.

What goes on the property after the still-to-be finalized purchase remains undecided, though, with Councilman Andrew Null stressing that point to quell what he called rumors about a park or green space.

“No decision has been made yet on what we’re going to do with the property,” he said.

After the meeting, Null said he wants to talk with Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, on what would make sense for that corner. When asked last week about the intentions for the property, Mayor John Berlin had talked about green space or a gazebo, but also said it would be up to city council.

Some people in attendance at the city council meeting Tuesday had their own ideas. City resident Mickey Cope Weaver, who previously served as council president, said she fully endorsed the purchase, saying “I think it’s important that the city have control of that space.”

She disagreed with the idea of a green space for the major property and said the city having control of the space should generate income for the city.

Another city resident, Bob Viencek, shared his vision of a small park on the property and even had a name picked out, Lincoln Park. He met with the mayor and city Service/Safety Director Joe Cappuzzello about his idea earlier in the day before coming to council.

He said he’s lived here since 1974 when he was hired as a teacher in the Salem school district. He asked why Salem can’t be more like Hudson, or Canfield, or Poland, or Columbiana or Lisbon, which all have quaint downtowns. He talked about Salem’s rich history and all it has to offer.

“I was very upset when the center point of our city was destroyed,” he said, referring to the demolition of the former Salem Area Chamber of Commerce building which had a front lawn known as the Village Green.

Viencek asked council to consider making the corner into Lincoln Park so it can serve as a focal point in downtown. He also presented a funding idea, saying the city’s population according to the 2019 census report is 11,774 and if each person donated $50 toward the park, they could raise $588,700 over two years. He acknowledged that not everyone would donate and some would donate more. He asked council what their legacy will be.

Viencek said later that he has nothing against businesses or gas stations, but “we don’t need it there.”

He said he could picture a fountain or gazebo and talked about how most major cities have green space in their downtown areas.

City council agreed to the issuance and sale of $450,000 in notes for the purchase.

Berlin said previously the deal was expected to close at the end of October. The chamber foundation, which previously owned the building and land, sold the property to Armadillo Development of Lisbon, owned by Ben Dickey, citing the poor condition of the structure. Dickey tore the building down last year and also bought a few of the surrounding parcels, which included two other buildings that were demolished.

At the time, he hoped any potential developers would see the possibilities for that corner.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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