Eco Earth restoration, domestic violence housing among Salem projects getting state help

A new rehab and detox center, construction on a long-awaited Vietnam War memorial and renovations to a beloved public art project are in the cards for Salem thanks to millions of dollars earmarked by state legislators.

Projects around the city received money from Oregon legislators during the 2024 session.

City leaders are still determining what state money might be available for sheltering and affordable housing, one of Gov. Tina Kotek’s priorities from the session. 

But legislators set aside money for several specific Salem projects. Here’s a breakdown.

Detox and sobering center: $11.5 million

Salem’s largest allocation went to Bridgeway Recovery Services for two projects to expand addiction treatment over the next year.

This spring, Bridgeway will purchase two houses in south Salem for $1.5 million and open them as residential drug treatment homes, each with eight beds, CEO Tim Murphy said. That will double the number of residential treatment spaces the nonprofit provider offers.

Another $10 million will fund construction of a new detox and sobering center next to Bridgeway’s existing downtown clinic on Northeast Front Street.

When completed in 2025, that clinic will combine Bridgeway’s existing detox program, which has space for 34 people, with a 7-bed sobering center. That will provide a place for police or emergency room providers to send people who are under the influence of alcohol who need a place to sleep it off.

Salem leaders have long advocated for a sobering center, but because the service isn’t covered by health insurance, funding has never come together to make it happen. Murphy said Bridgeway will be able to pay for it because of the provider’s size and scale, and by co-locating it with detox, which is covered by insurance.

Read more about the project here:

YMCA service center – $3.05 million

The YMCA of Marion & Polk Counties is moving ahead with a plan to lease the vacant former Statesman Journal building next to its downtown gym and headquarters, turning it into a hub for social services.

The state money is about half of what YMCA leaders initially sought for the project, but it’s enough to move forward, said Tim Sinatra, CEO of the YMCA.

The empty building at 280 Church St. N.E. will be purchased by a storage company, Sinatra said. The company plans to use the basement level for a storage facility and lease the street level to the YMCA, which will handle improvements. Fifteen organizations are involved, including the Boys & Girls Club, Oregon Department of Human Services.

From there, social service organizations would lease spaces, allowing the complex to serve as a one stop shop to help Salemites who are struggling. 

“When a domino falls like you lose your job, we don’t allow the other dominoes to fall so you become homeless,” Sinatra said.

The complex could also house expanded recreation space for the YMCA, which has exceeded membership targets since opening its new building in the fall of 2022. Sinatra said the facility opens up possibilities for collaboration between agencies, like the YMCA offering free child care so parents can take a class on cooking or budgeting.

“We think it’s a wonderful model and it’s a pilot project that’s intended to be replicable elsewhere,” said Sen. Deb Patterson, a Salem Democrat who advocated for the money.

Willamette University baseball field improvements: $3 million

Roy “Spec” Keene Stadium, the Willamette University-owned stadium adjacent to Bush’s Pasture Park, will get an upgrade to a turf field with new lights and more entryways.

The project will benefit Salem Baseball LLC, a private company that plans to start up a Salem baseball team in the summer West Coast League, which features college players between seasons.

The project has generated some concern from the neighborhood association over impacts to traffic, parking, noise and light pollution, as well as questions about the use of taxpayer money to fund improvements for a private company.

City officials and Salem-Keizer School District leaders were among the public entities who supported the project. The field will be available for high school students to use for practices and games, and Salem nonprofits serving youth said they anticipated using the facilities for sports programs.

HOPE Plaza permanent supportive housing – $750,000

A supportive apartment building for domestic violence survivors in downtown Salem got a boost that will help pay for rising construction costs.

HOPE Plaza, a project of the Center for Hope and Safety, is slated to open later this year at 450 Church St. N.E. It includes 20 subsidized apartments, as well as street-level space for businesses that will provide job training or services to the people living above.

The building cost is about $15 million, and the project has previously received both state and federal money.

“The funding will make a real difference for the project, allowing us to be on budget. We hope to receive a few more community donations, which will allow us to open HOPE Plaza completely debt free,” said Jayne Downing, executive director of the Center for Hope and Safety, in an email.

She said construction should be finished in June, and then apartments will be furnished and leased.

A construction camera shows progress on Hope Plaza as of Dec. 28, 2023.

Capitol Vietnam War memorial: $400,000

Construction can begin on the first phase of a memorial honoring Vietnam War veterans on the Oregon State Capitol grounds after legislators approved putting $400,000 toward the effort.

Steve Bates, president of the Vietnam War Memorial Fund, said that money nearly closes a budget gap for the first phase of the project, which has a $3.6 million budget.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is scheduled for Friday, March 29, at 12:15 p.m. It will be held in Willson Park near the corner of Northeast Cottage and State streets on the Capitol grounds.

“The Vietnam War veterans are getting older and some are passing away and it’s long past time for us to respect their service to our country and their state,” said Rep. Kevin Mannix, a Salem Republican who advocated for the funding.

The effort still needs to raise about $2 million for its second phase.

The memorial’s first phase consists of engraved columns in the park which will list all Oregonians who died in Vietnam. More about the design is available on the project website. Contributions can also be made on the website.

Eco-Earth restoration: $150,000

A long-delayed effort to restore one of Salem’s most iconic pieces of public art got a $150,000 boost from the state’s Cultural Resource Economic Fund.

The Eco Earth globe mosaic in Riverfront Park is now close to its restoration goal of $400,000, said Carol Snyder, president of the Salem Parks Foundation. The state money takes the project to $345,500.

“We do expect that the near-success will prompt more donations,” she said in an email.

Snyder said the foundation expects to hit their fundraising goal in the fall of 2024 and begin the restoration in 2025.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.