Downtown Plan draws discussion

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Public hearing slated Dec. 16

Salem City Planner Benjamin Tripp discusses the Downtown Plan at last Tuesday’s open house. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Salem City Planner Benjamin Tripp discusses the Downtown Plan at last Tuesday’s open house. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Last Tuesday night, Salem City officials and members of the community gathered together at the Salem Museum for a final open house event, meant to inform the public and garner input regarding the Downtown Plan.

The plan, which has been in the works since last autumn, is an effort by the City of Salem’s Planning and Development Department, which has diligently worked with the public and city officials to optimize it during the development stages.

“One of the things that we clearly said we were going to do is not put together a plan that sat on the table,” said Melinda Payne, director.

She added that she hopes create a new vibe in downtown Salem.

“There is really some low-hanging fruit that we know we can do right away, and then there are other things that we know we’ll have to work on to try to figure out how to get budgeted and make them happen.”

The first open house was held in January, and the process has been extremely community-driven, with thousands of online comments. More than 3,400 comments were also received from a downtown retail survey that was mailed to every utility customer in Salem.

The plan is organized into “Themes, Goals and Strategies” sections. According to Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess, parking seems to be the main topic on the public’s mind, but the plan will address wider topics as well, such as bringing in new businesses and beautifying the area.

“Ben (Tripp, planner) targeted different populations, so we have a good number from the college, business owners and residents who have an interest in it. On the negative side, there is a perception that we don’t have enough parking, or at least not in the right areas,” Boggess said. “But what we heard a lot of is that people really like the downtown, and they just want to see more opportunities and activities. We want to find a good mix of businesses along with a good mix of events to bring people in.”

The planning commission will hold a public hearing on Dec. 16 at their regularly scheduled meeting, and will decide their next course of action, whether it be to approve, disapprove or make changes to the current plan. If approved, the plan will be presented to city council in January for adoption.

“I’m personally very excited about this plan,” said Bob Rotanz, owner of Mac and Bob’s, in a City of Salem press release. “It’s very thorough and addresses all the issues, and I’m looking forward to implementing our game plan.”

“We wanted to take a look at downtown Salem, as far as where it is today and where we want it to be in five, 10, 15 years from now,” Boggess said. “The main thing was getting the community involved in figuring out what is going to make Salem a viable downtown community.

To learn more, visit http://downtown.salemva.gov to view the complete plan, which is open for public review and comment.