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Is It The Buildings Or The Attitudes That Are Ugly?

Ugly Is In The Eye Of The Opinion Holder

By William Legault1238731_659052134116092_8007052_n

In a city of more than 40,000 people there are going to be many opinions. These opinions will vary greatly, sometimes day to day,  even moment to moment.  One thing is certain however, there will always be a very vocal few whose opinions get out there more, and louder than most.

Recently some have weighed in20160726_142833 on the various media platforms about the current plans for new developments in the downtown.  The loudest voices as usual, are the negative ones.  When I say negative voices, I mean that they are expressing opinions against the proposed buildings. There are actually no negative opinions, just opinions that cast something in a negative light.

That will be all for the semantic games today.

The proposed hotel, apartment, and retail project on upper Washington Street that is just getting underway by RCG is the recent target of the “Oh My God That Building Is Ugly” crowd.  Well, having sat through more than a few of the many and varied city board meetings where this building design had to be discussed, dissected, and discussed again I feel obligated to add a little cold 20160726_143558water to those hot fires of indignation. RCG and it’s design team jumped through every hoop the city presented to them.

In a nutshell, unless you are going to buy the property and develop it yourself get over it.  I would also like to admit some amusement at the fact that some of those who now protest live in some of the other “ugly” buildings in Salem, as identified by the very crowd that they now join.

We have a review process that works. We know it works because things actually get built in this city, unlike a few other cities close by who would consider having our problems a blessing and not a curse

A few years back the state built the new Superior and District Court building at the end of Front Street. To me the front of the building is attractive, especially when lit up at night.  The funky pointed roof with columns is both a acknowledgement of the older neighboring buildings and a conversation piece for anyone that looks up.  The view from the back side indicates that some thought and a little extra effort was made to provide some architectural detail. It is not a great structure, but it is far from ugly no matter the opinions of those that want our tax dollars to be used building palaces instead of functional and affordable buildings.

I listen as pe20160726_143934ople decry what is being proposed and then built, but where are these folks as the old Naumkeag Bank building at 217 Essex Street sits virtually vacant and thoroughly neglected by its owner? Is it a pass issued because the owner is not an evil bogeyman like RCG?

Now that the 90 Washington Street is due to be renovated the naysayers will come out of the wood work to rant against yellow brick. Where were they for the last thirty years as that building was allowed to crumble? Should we also protest the yellow brick of the lovely Newmark Building as it is being renovated?

It is said that we should not settle for “better than what was there before” as we approve new buildings.  That is great in concept, but if we do that we will price ourselves out of the progress market altogether.   A city needs to grow, and I believe we could manage that growth better, but not by pricing interested developers out of the equation.

Let’s not try to manage our growth by being obstructionist caterwaulers. The way to manage growth is through smart planning, and that begins with a City-Wide Master Plan.  If you want to focus your energy for the good of the city, focus it there.

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