Ty Hapworth Answers Our City-Wide Master Plan Question
Is The Legacy Master Plan Still Relevant?
The City of Salem City Wide Master Plan was written in 1979 under Mayor Jean Levesque. It was last updated in 1996 under Mayor Neil Harrington. Does tis master Plan, as written and updated remain relevant to the needs of the city in the east 21st Century?
SALEM ELECTION QUESTION 2019
One Question For The Councillor at-Large Candidates
Great cities are built from the bottom up by many hands. Salem’s historic neighborhoods were not built in accordance with a top-down municipal plan. They were built by Salem’s people, responding to the market, small bets that failed or succeeded incrementally over decades and centuries. I favor a planning approach that is flexible, driven by public input and incremental traditional development patterns. Rather than spending time, effort (and possibly money) developing a new or updated comprehensive master plan, I favor a definition of principles and objectives that will guide our city through the next 20 years. From my perspective those principles should be centered around how we can ensure future private development and municipal spending deliver quality to our neighborhoods. Through my conversations at the doors, I think we can be guided by five principles:
Neighborhood Income Diversity
Principle 1: Historic Preservation must be a priority in every neighborhood.
Historic buildings give our neighborhoods pride and character, help us understand where we came from and tell Salem’s story to visitors. I favor a bottom up approach to historic preservation and historic districts. With the input of neighborhood residents, there is room to expand our historic districts and protections. A great example here is Bridge Street Neck. Bridge Street is one of Salem’s two oldest streets and is home to an impressive collection of historic structures. However, many of these old homes are hidden under inappropriate modern renovations, vinyl siding and modern materials. The growth and investment in this neighborhood is an opportunity to reveal some of this historic character, but it can’t happen without oversight from the Historic Commission. Strong neighborhoods contain buildings from a mix of eras, and this rapid pace of change in Salem puts many of these unprotected sites at risk to large scale development. Historic preservation must be a fundamental principle on which we rely to maintain neighborhood character.
Principle 2: New Construction should contribute to the beauty and character of our neighborhoods.
Salem has a rich architectural heritage and may contain the most impressive and diverse collection of homes and structures in America. We need to define an expectation in new construction around materials and scale. Developers should work within a neighborhood, taking cues from surrounding buildings to deliver design that is unique and appropriate to Salem. As new projects come onboard, we should be able to point developers to these guidelines defining our expectations.
Principle 3: Salem should be the most accessible city on the North Shore.
We should set as our north star, a goal to be the most accessible city on the North Shore. We have a lot of work ahead of us here, but it starts with municipal projects. Every park or public space must meet stringent requirements for accessibility. To illustrate this point, Furlong Park’s playground currently requires a small step down to access the play structures. It’s a stepdown that most of us wouldn’t notice or think twice about, but that small step prevents children or parents in mobility devices from joining friends or family inside the playground. This should be a ramp, and it’s an easy fix. Just outside of Furlong Park, anyone attempting to navigate Franklin Street on foot to get downtown receives an immediate, implicit message: this street is not meant for pedestrians. The sidewalk disappears, trees and bushes hang out over the street and pedestrians are forced to walk in the road, weaving around parked cars. We need to view our sidewalks as Salem’s most important public spaces, ensuring they are accessible, connected and well lit. Regarding transportation, we cannot allow additional density in our neighborhoods if we aren’t able to address how those new residents will get around. The addition of cars and people by the hundreds to our neighborhoods without a viable shuttle service, connected bike lanes and accessible sidewalks should be discouraged.
Neighborhood Income Diversity:
Principle 4: Every neighborhood should contain a diverse mix of income levels.
Salem will never solve Boston’s housing crunch. New housing, responding to the demands of the current and projected housing market in the greater Boston area will always deliver luxury condos. This hollowing out of income diversity weakens our neighborhoods, and makes it increasingly difficult for working families, service workers, city employees, artists and immigrant families to call Salem home. We need to set a goal to ensure that every neighborhood contains a diverse mix of incomes.
Principle 5: Salemites in every neighborhood should have walkable access to amenities.
For our neighborhoods to be enjoyed we need to give our residents walkable access to the amenities that make that so. Amenities can include public spaces, coffee shops, small grocery stores, green spaces, community and cultural hubs, etc. Development weakens our neighborhoods if it’s not part of a larger vision for a livable, lovable place.