North Salem Investment Creates Affordable Housing, Improved Pedestrian Access, Jobs, and Educational Opportunities

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The landscape of north Salem is changing. Thanks to significant investment by the region's private and public sectors, once-blighted areas are receiving more than just a fresh coat of paint… they're being rebuilt and enhanced. These investments are increasing the affordable housing inventory, enhancing transportation amenities, and creating workforce development and educational opportunities for Salem residents.

"This long-awaited investment in Salem's northern gateway will help attract destination businesses and amenities, as well as improve the lives of those who already call north Salem home - from affordable places to live, to more shopping options," said Jason Cox, North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board Chair.

But how did this come about? In short, it's because in 1990 the North Gateway Urban Renewal Area was established, a roughly 900-acre section of north Salem that includes the Portland Road Corridor. In the last 28 years, urban renewal funding has built new roads, improved area intersections, and facilitated the development, and redevelopment, of public facilities and mixed-use properties.

"Tax increment revenue received in the urban renewal area allows us to invest in projects that improve infrastructure, safety, and beautification along Portland Road. This encourages additional private sector investment that creates growth in property tax revenue that will benefit the city," said Kristin Retherford, Director of Urban Development for the City of Salem.

In 2014, the Urban Renewal Agency began an extensive outreach program to residents, businesses, and community organizations to inform an action plan that would help direct the funding and priorities for the area. Community feedback indicated that the plan should explore ways to grow small businesses, make walking and biking safer, and create financial incentives for businesses and property owners in the area. The action plan was adopted in 2016 using that community's feedback.

Below is an update on the north Salem projects that were outlined in this action plan. A lot has happened since 2016.

Affordable Housing: Supporting the construction of new affordable housing units is an adopted City-wide goal and has remained an Urban Renewal Area Plan priority since 2016. The Urban Renewal Agency has formed multiple partnerships to address affordable housing in north Salem. Examples include the construction of the Cornerstone Apartments on Portland Road and helping the Salem Housing Authority develop additional affordable housing on Fisher Road. Urban renewal investment of approximately $2.6 million in these projects will leverage approximately $30 million in public and private investment and bring more than 200 new affordable housing units to Salem's North Gateway Urban Renewal Area.

Educational Opportunities and Workforce Development: Throughout the Mid-Willamette region, there is a need for a trained workforce. To address this need, the Urban Renewal Agency invested $2 million toward the Salem-Keizer School District's Career and Technical Education Center. Despite only three-of-five phases being complete, the facility is already generating the attention of students and public education institutions throughout Salem and surrounding areas. When the facility is complete in 2020, the school is expected to have 1,000 students enrolled in various programs including auto mechanics, construction, and design. 

Streetscape Improvements: In Fall 2017, a streetscape design plan to improve the Portland Road Corridor was developed using community feedback. The plan makes it easier and safer to walk and bike in the area, and integrates infrastructure improvements to help existing and future businesses. The project includes three pedestrian crossings with refuge islands and new sidewalks, curbs, and streetlights along Portland Road between Bill Frey Drive NE and Hyacinth Street NE. In addition, retaining walls will be constructed at the Claggett Creek crossing of Portland Road NE to accommodate the new sidewalks. Sewer and water infrastructure will also be installed to accommodate future growth in the Portland Road area.

Public/Private Partnership Grant Program: The grant program assists the private sector with developing and investing in the North Gateway Urban Renewal Area. In the past two years, $4.5 million in urban renewal funds have helped business invest $19.3 million in the area and created an estimated 180 new jobs. Grant funding helps companies like Pro-Cure, Dicke Safety Supply, and ATC, stay and grow in Salem by allowing them to add equipment and make building improvements that improve their production. Thanks to these investments, and continued efforts by the City of Salem's business retention program, developer and business interest continues to grow in the area.  

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