It was a Monday night, early spring a few short years ago.
Council Chambers were packed, and the topic of the night was a heavy one: what to do with the blighted land where the Boise Cascade paper mill had been inoperable for over a decade?
The owner of the property – Mountain West Investment Corporation – had developed a plan with the help of a team of attorneys and City staff. But a needle was being threaded through a myriad of policies and land use issues. The significant sticky wicket of the night was entry to the property. Initial plans included entry to the Boise property being shared with the Riverfront Carousel. In retrospect, this was certainly an understandable objection.
At one point, someone close to the development told me that developing on the moon seemed to be more likely.
That night, City Council moved to not approve the plan. You could almost hear Salem gasp for air, as the chances of this blighted site becoming something beautiful and useful again seemed to blow away with the winds of the Willamette.
A few short months later, my phone rang. It was a member of the City of Salem communications team, and we were informed that Mayor Peterson and then City Manager Linda Norris had some “good news” to share with us. We were given a date to be at City Hall, but no other information was given. I asked the question “on a scale of 1 to 10, how significant is this project”. I was given a quick answer…”an 11″.
I remember placing a friendly wager of lunch on what I thought this mystery project could be with our then CEO, Jason Brandt. I took the Boise Cascade redevelopment. He took the field.
I won lunch. Which I think I’m still waiting on, by the way.
With high levels of humility and grace for one another, Mountain West Investments and the City of Salem did what Salem does. They figured out how to make this project work.
Fast forward to today, and as a result of the project is that downtown housing has more than doubled. Good paying jobs aren’t far behind, with Marquis and Huggins Insurance breaking ground on new buildings that will bring roughly 100 solid professionals into our downtown core.
This is what a City Council does…it sets a community tone. It is pragmatic, thinks out of the box, and looks for wins for the people it is responsible to.
Chuck Bennett and Warren Bednarz were on this particular Council. The one that searched for “yes”, not for “no”.
We hope that you will join us in supporting their campaigns with your vote in May, as Chuck is seeking election as Mayor and Warren is seeking re-election to his Ward 7 Council position.
If you’re able to contribute financially to efforts like these, please consider a contribution to this political action committee. We are also supporting the candidacy of Jan Kailuweit to replace Chuck as Ward 1 Councilor. Together – these three Salem “doers” will be constantly seeking to be pro-Salem and find the yes.
About the author: Nick Williams is an amateur writer and father, and a professional Salemite serving as the Director of Public Affairs with the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce