Written by Emily Udy, Preservation Manager
At the heart of preservation is the desire to maintain the defining places of our community so that we can understand our place in the timeline of society. When we are engaged in preservation we are deciding what we want to survive into the next century, which is an awesome responsibility; one that belongs to us all.
As we look from past to future it is imperative to address how preservation supports sustainability and resiliency. These three goals are intrinsically tied together, and in fact, the Preservation movement is indebted to the Sustainability movement for their efforts to preserve our natural environment. Salem, like any city settled on the seashore, has a history tied to the water, and as a result many of our historic resources will face natural demolition as flood levels change and average daily tides move higher.
What’s Happening: On Thursday September 7 at 7:00pm at 120 Washington Street in the 3rd Floor conference room the Planning Board is holding a Public Hearing to review a proposed development for 18 Franklin Street (the former Ferris Auto Service property). The proposal is for 43 condo units in 5 buildings. Click here for the agenda.
Why This Matters: This is the furthest east property in the North River Canal Corridor (NRCC). It is the first of as many of seven properties near the intersection of North, Commercial and Franklin Streets that will be facing redevelopment in the next few years, and this project will set the expectation of quality to measure the other projects. As a waterfront development, this project has high visibility from downtown and the North River overpass and it will impact the historic North Salem neighborhood in which it sits.
Historic Salem Opinion: Development of this site is guided by the North River Canal Corridor master plan which sets specific goals for this Northeast area of the Corridor. These include low density housing in the scale of the surrounding neighborhood and improvements to pedestrian access along the North River, along both sides of Franklin Street, to the MBTA lot and at the intersection of North and Franklin Streets. We believe that achieving these goals will create a project that respects the neighborhood character.
What You Can Do: This is the first meeting for city permits for this project, and it is important that community input is heard early during the initial public comment period. Please consider attending the meeting with us or sending an opinion to the Planning Board by clicking here. Note that there will be a series of Planning Board, Design Review Board, and Conservation Commission meetings going forward to review this project
If this is your first planning board meeting (or you want a refresher) click here to read the guidelines of a Planning Board meeting.
After considering the arguments for and against the zoning change on Derby Street, the Planning Board voted 6 to 1 to not support rezoning until the Downtown Renewal District boundaries could also be expanded. Read the official decision here.
The Urban Renewal District, as administered by the Salem Redevelopment Authority, provides controls for demolition and design, which Historic Salem agrees is imperative for any B-5 zoning expansion.
Read the related Salem Matters advocacy alert here: Zoning changes proposed for Derby Street may impact historic fabric of neighborhood.
What’s Happening: On Wednesday, July 26 at 6:00 p.m. at 120 Washington Street, 3rd Floor Conference Room, there will be a joint meeting of the Design Review Board and the Salem Redevelopment Authority. The Design Review Board agenda includes continued discussion and vote to approve the schematic design for 65 Washington Street – the proposed new condominium development by Diamond Sinacori, LLC and Urban Spaces, LLC on the former Salem District Court site. Click here for the agenda.
Why This Matters: This is a very high impact project because of its size and location at the entrance corridor to the downtown. The project will tear-down the empty Salem District Court building at the corner of Federal and Washington Streets and build a new condominium complex. It will stretch almost an entire city block from Federal Street to Church Street, and will be one of the first large buildings seen when arriving downtown. It is important that the Design Review Board require quality design.
Historic Salem Opinion: An important part of our mission is to ensure that new development complements the historic character of the city. The quality of construction, as well as the design of this building, has been under significant scrutiny and criticism from the City as well as Historic Salem and residents of Salem. We are asking for pedestrian friendly street-level design (from both storefronts and parking areas) and details that compliment the neighborhood. It is important to speak up for a good design, materials, and scale for this project because once it is built, it is here to stay.
What You Can Do: Please consider attending the meeting with us on Wednesday, July 26th or e-mail an opinion to the Design Review Board directly.
We also have a Facebook conversation about good design in Salem, read what others think and let us know your thoughts.
What’s Happening: On July 20 at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, the City Council will continue the public hearing regarding a citizen’s request for a zoning change from R2 to B5 at 204, 206, 214, and 222 Derby Street. Click here for the agenda.
Why This Matters: Rezoning these parcels from Residential Two Family (R2) to Central Development (B5) heightens the risk of tear-downs of these smaller historic buildings and re-builds of much larger buildings and denser development, which would change the character of this important entry corridor to the historic Derby Street neighborhood. Rezoning could also help legitimize potential roll-out of this dense, city center zoning down all of historic Derby Street.
HSI Opinion: The buildings in question are currently mixed-use, grandfathered into an R2 zone, which requires zoning relief for use changes. While HSI understands this inconvenience, the risk to the character of the historic Derby Street neighborhood is more important. Better solutions include either rezoning these parcels to the more neighborhood-appropriate Business Neighborhood (B1) zoning or protecting the historic buildings with preservation easements before rezoning to B5. The Council could also consider extending the local historic district to encompass these properties, which would require more municipal scrutiny over any future building changes.
What You Can Do: Please consider joining us at the public hearing on the 20th. You can also e-mail an opinion directly to the city council by clicking here.
The city’s initiative for 289 Derby Street is an excellent example of enlivening not just a public space, but the public process. In traditional public meetings many people don’t have the time or feel that they can attend and speak at a public meeting* but the organizers of this event seem to be taking creative steps to make this an inclusive process. This is an excellent opportunity for collaborative placemaking on a site that has a strong tie to Salem’s maritime and industrial history.
In Salem, as in other places, our city is recognized for its open space as much as its buildings.
In the case of the site in question this “new” public space has the potential to continue a vibrant chain of public spaces (attached – public space map) that connect the downtown to the waterfront; and among other uses is an excellent location for educating us on the physical shape of our city when the land was created by landfilling, and strengthening our connection to the water and to the larger world as a historical shipping port and world influencer.
HSI Board Member John Schneider wrote in his recent essay on the importance of public space, “Public spaces are important for … the capacity of cities to endow their residents and visitors with a broadly inclusive social experience that … invites a feeling of mutuality, and … civic pride.”
So come! Help the city make this a “broadly inclusive social experience” by sharing what matters to you. Attend as many of these outdoor, family friendly, lively events as you can. Share what matters to you and learn what matters to your neighbors. Seize the opportunity to be part of this innovative process.
*Though, I can assure you that you have every right to do so, no expertise or social status needed. If you want help crafting what you’ll say at a public meeting, contact us and we are happy to help talk you through it.
Starting tonight, the city, in collaboration with Creative Salem & Salem Public Space Project, is hosting a series of Placemaking events to determine the future of the vacant lot at 289 Derby Street. These "placemaking community events" are a fantastic way to gather ideas and interests in the future of the lot.
Years ago, there were plans to transform the lot (and adjacent parcels) into a Bowditch park. In 1979, the city put forth plans that proposed a maritime-inspired park that took design cues from Salem's sailing and trading history.
One of our nine 2017 Preservation Awards Winners was the rehabilitation of the Probate and Family Court House. The project that turned the 1909 Registry of Deeds into the 2017 Probate and Family Court building is a stunning rehabilitation that is the result of a five year planning and design process by the architecture firm Perry Dean Rogers. The building stands out even amid a row of monumental buildings on Federal Street. The fully restored exterior is capable of stopping you in your tracks. Careful brick and granite cleaning and new windows bring a youthful glow to this old building. Accessibility ramps are subtly tucked into the façade allowing the portico to retain its grandiosity. New doors were designed to meet the intent of the long lost original doors and those gorgeous lanterns cast a comforting glow on the evening streetscape.
During the course of the project the intention was always to keep as much historic fabric as possible. The team evaluated the interior to decide what highly visible and architecturally significant areas could be restored; what would be rehabilitated by continuing the character of the building into areas with less architectural detailing; and what areas, such as utility space, was non-significant and could just be renovated.
Restoration focused on the lobbies with their marble floors, columns and walls; the monumental stairs and elevator with highly decorative grillwork; and it included a historic courtroom and the double height Register of Probate space. In many cases where woodwork could not be reused it was reproduced and replaced. The marble is entirely original with just a few placed that needed repair. Light fixtures were refurbished to accept energy efficient light bulbs.
The east wing waiting area features an original skylight that was moved from elsewhere in the building. This preservation award is given specifically to the restoration of the historic building, but the new construction can’t go without mention. The addition flows seamlessly through the interior spaces with equally high quality finishes throughout. The exterior is unapologetically contemporary with design and materials that carefully address the scale and motif of the original building and the surrounding court buildings.
We celebrate this renovation with a Historic Salem Preservation Award, presented to Perry Dean Rogers Partners Architects.
One of our nine 2017 Preservation Awards Winners was the renovation of the Settlement House at 114 Derby Street. All eyes have been on what would become of the Settlement
House once it was no longer owned by the House of the Seven Gables -- and how lucky those eyes are now. The Settlement House, located at 114 Derby Street, is now 6 residential condo units. The 1806 Federal-style building was gutted in 1920 and the exterior “updated” to the Italianate style with larger windows on the third floor and in 1980 a school building was added to the rear of the building.
This building has been at times a Home for Aged Men, an assembly house, and a key piece of the Gables programming. In preparation for its next life as residential condominiums the exterior restoration included masonry repair and repainting, rebuilding of the front stair, Tuscan columns and pedimented portico and new wood doors were added to match the existing. The rear addition, neither historic nor high quality was rebuilt and is an incredible example of contemporary architecture that
distinguishes itself while fitting its context. Both the Turner Street courtyard and Derby Street courtyard were designed by landscape architect Michael D’Angelo for gathering and to provide a sense of place and arrival. Both yards present a welcoming relief to the hardscape and dense urban, historic texture of the Derby Street neighborhood.
We celebrate this renovation with a Historic Salem Preservation Award, presented to Joseph Skomurski, Larry Frej, and Seger Architects.
One of our nine 2017 Preservation Awards Winners was the renovation of the former Convent at 7 Howard Street. Larry Frej and Joe Skomurski joined forces for this project, bringing their individual backgrounds in planning, landscape architecture, development and contracting to adapt the former convent for St. John the Baptist Church for use as six residential condominium units in the dense historic neighborhood of Howard Street.
Built in the early 60's the buff-colored masonry building has been respectfully adapted for residential use with homage to its original mid-century modern aesthetic. Care was taken by the developers to retain much of the original character and use the buildings unique details to harmonize with contemporary interventions. Of particular note is the serpentine canopy which was restored and extended to emphasize entry and provide cover. A skewed support column strengthens the canopy geometry and adds a contextual but contemporary edge to the facade. New windows in existing openings provide ample natural light and ventilation. Period interpretive lighting and entry door reinforce the mid-century modern aesthetic along with new balconies informed by the entry porch rail which was retained and restored.
Dramatic color treatment to the front and rear elevation coupled with the restoration of the flying cornice enlivens the street presence and creates an exciting contemporary intervention to Howard Street without sacrificing its mid-century defining elements.
This project joins a group of past Preservation Award winners in this neighborhood as it reinvents itself as a vibrant urban neighborhood. We celebrate this renovation with a Historic Salem Preservation Award, presented to Joseph Skomurski, Larry Frej, and Seger Architects.