Sustainable Cities Initiative

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Approaching real world issues facing local governments in a way that balances environmental, social, and economic concerns is the heart of sustainable development. Limited staff is one of the major roadblocks to in-depth, cross-disciplinary examination of community issues. In 2010, Salem was selected as the University of Oregon (UO) Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI) focus city. This unique partnership between the University of Oregon and the City of Salem provided an opportunity for UO faculty and students to work collaboratively with City staff to tackle important development, planning, and civic engagement issues. SCI received the 2010 Bridge Builders Award from the Partners for Livable Communities in recognition of the program's interdisciplary engagement of scholars, community leaders, and project partners.

Project numbers:

  • 80,000 hours of work
  • 600 students
  • 28 courses
  • 25 faculty
  • 15 city-identified projects
  • 10 disciplines
  • 1 city

Current initiatives

The SCI still guides development of Salem as shown in the following projects:

Community involvement and growth initiatives

A variety of reports in the SCI examined ways to improve community involvement, improve economic opportunities, reduce environmental impacts and promote sustainable transportation.

Civic engagement​

This part of the SCI focused on how a mid-sized city can engage all segments of the community and effectively communicate all the information needed for the city and its residents to thrive.

The civic engagment plans focused on three areas:

  • Ensure the the broadest community awareness and representation in decision-making
  • Develop a communication and outreach strategy using new technologies and best practices
  • Document cultural resources in the North Salem area

The final reports:

Economic development

A vibrant economy requires strategic planning based on market research. Two reports from the SCI accomplish both these goals:

  • The Salem Target Industry Analysis provided market research on specific Salem industries, their growth potential, and compatability with Salem’s comparative economic advantages.
  • The Salem Economic Properity Plan is a five-year strategic action plan designed to direct the City Council and its economic partners in attracting and retaining a variety of jobs and businesses. 

Environmental impact assessment

Evaluating industrial systems and their impacts on the environment provides opportunities to increase efficiency and preserve natural resources. The Industrial Ecology report done as part of the SCI explored industrial ecology concepts in two Salem businesses:

  •  Willow Lake​
    • Evaluate methods of generating energy.
    • Assess a partnership between Willow Lake and SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel.
    • Review long-term water supply and reclamation alternatives.
  • NORPAC Foods, Inc
    • Propose a strategy to conserve and recyle nutrients.
    • Develop strategies for sustainable defective can disposal.

Transportation analysis

A sustainable city includes an efficient transportation system which promotes connects the community to resources with the least amount of impact on the environment. This part of the SCI produced the following reports to help inform decisions:

​Park planning and connectivity initiatives

Parks an important part of any City, providing a place for communities to gather as well as improving the environment.

Connecting Downtown parks

This project set out to develop options for walking and biking access in Downtown Salem by connecting Salem’s  core area parks with a system of urban trails and bicycle routes.

The final reports are:

Minto-Brown Island restoration

Minto-Brown Island Park provides nearly 900 acres of outdoor recreation area for Salem and is an important community resource. Two reports provided recommendations to enhance the existing park offerings and connect the 160 acres of restoration are with the existing 900 acre park:

Integrating Riverfront Park with Pringle Creek

The Brownfields/Green Neighborhoods: Integrating Riverfront Park with Pringle Creek report explored option for developing the Salem’s South Waterfront in a way that protects the ecological health of the area and the City’s social and economic needs.

​Redevelopment initiatives

Revitalizing specific geographic areas in Salem spurs job growth and improves property values.

​Civic Center/Police station​

Improving public engagement drove the development reports examining ways to enhance the functionality of Salem Civic Center and provide better space for the Salem Police Department.

The final reports are:

​North Downtown Waterfront

Development projects in the North Downtown Waterfront area provide opportunities to draw tourism, provide housing, and spur new businesses.

The final reports are:

Orchard Village Green Cities integration

Integrating affordable housing, a sustainable stormwater management system, and infill development guided the proposals for this 2.87 acre site.

The final reports are:

South of Mission area

The South of Mission report examined the opportunities for redevelopment in the South Waterfront Urban Renewal Area south of Mission to Owens. The vision outlined included taking advantage of the existing infrastructure and making efforts to connect to major City assets such as Bush’s Pature Park and the Willamette River.

Development proposals for specific downtown, rural and corridor areas

Students in a combined Architecture and Planning class called City Growth/City Design created development proposals for three sites located in urban renewal areas of Salem. The final report, Development Proposals for Three Targeted Sites in Salem, Oregon, identified:

  • Appropriate uses
  • Opportunities and constraints
  • Zoning and transportation infrastructure
  • Community needs

Contact us

Courtney Knox Busch
Monday–Friday
8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
555 Liberty ST SE RM 220
Salem OR 97301
Phone: