Over the next 30 days, sections of the area surrounding the Marion Parkade will close as crews clean, install new lighting and repair minor damage around the parking garage.
The city of Salem’s announcement of the closure, posted to Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday, Feb. 21, received dozens of comments questioning the impact it will have on people who are homeless downtown.
While the parkade itself at 400 Marion St. N.E. will remain open to cars, the sidewalk area ringing the garage will be closed until March 24.
The closure will impact around 15 to 20 unsheltered people, said city spokeswoman Courtney Knox Busch in a Wednesday email to Salem Reporter. She said unsheltered people will not be able to access the area to sleep during the next month.
“We seek the opportunity to reduce the impacts of camping at the property and increase cleaning activities at the site during this period,” she said.
In addition to installing lighting around the perimeter, crews will remove graffiti and fire stains, pressure wash sidewalks and divider walls and clean windows and other features, according to Knox Busch.
Gretchen Bennett, the city’s liaison on homeless issues, said that city crews have been talking with unsheltered people who use the area for shelter for a few weeks.
“We’ve been letting people know that it won’t work to be able to stay here, we really need to have this space open and available to do cleaning and maintenance and to be able to focus in on that. And so we’ve been encouraging people to take advantage of any possible shelter options,” Bennett said.
The closure started the same day a winter weather warning was issued for the area, with possible snow showers.
As snow began to fall around noon on Wednesday, the sidewalk around the parkade had been cleared of all residents, though a few carts full of belongings were parked unattended in front of businesses across from the garage on Northeast High Street.
“Alternatives are available during this temporary closure. Temperatures dipping below freezing this week, we are encouraging people relocate immediately to warming shelters in the evening,” Knox Busch said, including the ARCHES’ Day Center.
She said that the city already pressure washes the site Tuesdays and Thursdays, during which the city said it does outreach to the unsheltered and removes around 2,000 pounds of trash weekly.
Bennett said the Salem Outreach and Livability Services Team started notifying unsheltered people in the area on Feb. 6 in person and in writing about the approaching closure.
“The community-wide announcement of the closure of the area occurred February 21, 2023, because we wanted to raise awareness of the closure of sidewalks in the area,” Knox Busch said.
Bennett said there wasn’t a particular reason for the timing of repairs to start in winter.
“I think it’s important to get on top of those maintenance tasks before they just continue to compound for us,” she said.
The city owns and maintains six parking structures in downtown Salem, including Marion.
The lighting installation is expected to cost $18,100, funded by the city’s Parking Structure Capital Improvement Fund, according to Knox Busch.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.
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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.