Are you wondering what will be built in that now empty lot on Washington Street, across the street from the Post Office?
It is a big project that will really define what that part of downtown Salem looks like. The project is in the Salem Redevelopment Authority boundary, which means that the project must be reviewed by the Design Review Board. Three years ago the project went through an intense round of design review. We recall that the project went through at least four meetings where the Board would give feedback and the architect and developer would return the following month with changes. The design that was finally approved is appropriately contemporary. There is a lot of visual interest, with articulation of the windows, balconies, porches and cornice lines. It looks three dimensional and unique, relating to the shape and slope of the site.
In the intervening years some noticeable site work was done. The existing single story “strip mall” was demolished, city utilities were moved and some preliminary changes to Washington Street were made. You may recall that as part of this process the developer purchased from the city a parking lot (with the same amount of spaces to be returned to the city when the project is complete).
In September 2017 the project was back in front of the Design Review Board. Ownership had changed, and the budget tightened. The developer of the hotel project asked for approval for changes to the design. Historic Salem expressed our displeasure with the proposed design, which was a weak copy of the original approval. We understand that changes are often needed in the course of the project we expected that there would be another round of intense review to get the building back up to the standard set by the previous approval. To our surprise, the entire building was discussed at meeting #1, the corner was discussed at meeting #2 and the entire building was approved. This is what will be presented for final approval at the Salem Redevelopment Authority meeting January 10, 2018.
What are your thoughts on the design? Join us at the Salem Redevelopment Authority meeting on Wednesday night at 6pm or send a letter to the Board by emailing it to SRA staff (contact info available on city website). Historic Salem will be asking that the Redevelopment Authority request additional consultation with the Design Review Board before approving this project.